Hip Hop Guide to St. Louis
Growing up in St. Louis, I never heard songs by artists from my town on the radio. Now you can't get away from St. Louis hip hop, with Nelly and his Lunatics, Chingy, and J-Kwon. St. Louis is finally on the map and the rap world has become more than just East Coast, West Coast, and Dirty South. If you've never been to St. Louis, you may find the references in the St. Louis rappers' tunes somewhat baffling. Fortunately, I "say it loud, I'm from the Lou and I'm proud" and I can interpret.
"Levis fresh from the cleaners heavy starch on the cuff" - "St. Louie"
When I lived in St. Louis, we simply put our dungarees in the dryer like most of the world does, but apparently now the fashion in some 'hoods is to send your jeans to the dry cleaners and get them heavily starched. Wacky!
"Catch me in the Galleria, Plaza of Chesterfield" - "St. Louie"
These are shopping malls in West County, a predominantly white area; however, a cross-section of St. Louisans shop there because the selection of stores is better than other malls. "Plaza of Chesterfield" is actually called "Chesterfield Plaza" but was inverted for the sake of the rhyme, or maybe because Nelly felt like impersonating Yoda.
"Natural Bridge and Kingshighway" - "St. Louie"
This is an intersection of major roads in North City, and it was Nelly's corner where he liked to hang out. Natural Bridge is also the name of UMSL's literary magazine, where Nerdia's poetry has been published, but Nelly probably doesn't subscribe, so I don't think he's referring to that.
"Sippin' Bud" - "Country Grammar"
Nelly is referring to Budweiser, a beverage that is more popular than water in the Lou. If you've read a bottle of Bud, you know that Anheusuer-Busch has its headquarters in St. Louis, and it's one of the city's largest employers. Drinking Miller is frowned upon.
"through Jennings, mon, through U City back up to Kingsland" - "Country Grammar"
These are different 'hoods. I grew up near Jennings and had my first job as a cashier at the JC Penney Outlet Store there where I was subjected to daily purse checks and failed to catch many people who switched price tags on items. Nelly grew up in U City, and it's known for the funky Loop area which is a must-visit with its cool bars, restaurants, shops, and walk of fame. Kingsland refers to an avenue of the same name, near U City.
"Take you down to Frontenac, you don't know how to act" - "Ride with Me"
There's some controversy over this lyric. I've always heard it as written above, but most online lyrics sites interpret it as "face and body front and back, you don't know how to act." Plaza Frontenac is the most exclusive mall in St. Louis, where clerks look down on any shoppers who look like they might have to ask how much something costs before purchasing it, like myself for example. Nelly, before he was famous, would certainly have received that look, too.
"The Rams won the Superbowl, bought myself a ring" - "Oh Nelly"
St. Louisans suffered a lot with the Football Cardinals, who never won anything. And then we had a few years without football until the Rams came to town. When Kurt Warner led the Rams to victory in Super Bowl 34 in 2000, I rejoiced along with Nelly. However, I did not buy a ring.
"I'm from the Lou and I'm important like the Arch" - "American Dream"
The Gateway Arch is, indeed, important. It's a monument to westward expansion and the highlight of the St. Louis skyline. Designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1965, it is 630 feet tall. You can ride to the top of the Arch in a clausterphobia-inducing egg, and enjoy the view from the observation deck at the top.
"St. Louis like Blues, D. Miles and Larry Hughes" - "Wat Da Hook Gon Be"
Murph salutes St. Louis's aptly-named hockey team (no Stanley Cups to their name), and two pro ballers - Darius Miles, an East St. Louis high graduate, and Larry Hughes, who represented St. Louis University.
"I like an old school Ozzie Smith jersey" - "Jang a Lang"
Ozzie Smith, 1980s Cardinal shortstop, was known for his impeccable defense and backflips. He's been elected into the baseball hall of fame and runs a couple of restaurants in St. Louis. His son Nikko made the top 10 on the 2005 American Idol.
"Now I'm on Highway 270 to Natural Bridge Rd." - "Holidae In"
Chingy seeks a Holiday Inn in North St. Louis County. He might have gotte lost, however, if he didn't follow the signs carefully. 270 doesn't intersect with Natural Bridge. He'd need to get off at St. Charles Rock Road and follow signs to Natural Bridge. I hope he found his way to the party. The song seems to indicate he did.
"Catch me in Northwest Plaza buying up the large" - "Madd @ Me"
Northwest Plaza is a pretty dumpy mall in North County. When I was a kid, it truly was a plaza - an open air mall. Then they decided they'd get more business if they put a roof over it, so it became an "all-weather" destination. This made the mall popular for a while - so popular that police had to enact an "anti-cruising" law. Nowadays, the mall is known as a gang hangout and most shoppers opt to drive to the Galleria or the Plaza of Chesterfield instead.
Believe it or not, there's more to St. Louis than sports, beer, and shopping - you'll have to peruse St. Lou Haiku to learn all about it. Coolia out.
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