July 21, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Although Nelly continually reminds us he’s from St. Louis, his debut, Country Grammar, also demonstrates that tiresome rap topics aren’t restricted to the coasts. All he wants is a ”thicky thick girl” and an expensive car, and he has far too much respect for Donald Trump. What salvages Nelly is his voice (a smooth, slippery-fast instrument with reggae inflections, as heard on the single ”Country Grammar [Hot S—]”), appealingly minimalist tracks, and introspective moments like ”Ride Wit Me,” in which he asks himself, ”Why do I live this way?” B-

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