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Governor praises Nelly for work in St. Louis Schools

February 05, 2002
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Nelly was in the House. Literally.

Gov. Bob Holden issued a proclamation honoring the St. Louis rapper and his group, the St. Lunatics, for helping to raise attendance in St. Louis city schools.

However, not all lawmakers were impressed by the proclamation, citing the group's lyrics, which include profanity and references to drugs in the St. Louis area, as embarrassing and offensive.

"When I saw the words, I was embarrassed," said Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield. "As a legislature, I question the wisdom of honoring someone that has publicly used words that are embarrassing to most parents."

Holden spokesman Jerry Nachtigal said the governor's action is a reflection of the group's public service, not their music.

"[Holden] wasn't here today to condone or criticize the group's lyrics," Nachtigal said. "He was here to praise this group for the excellent things they've done to improve education."

Nachtigal said Holden was aware of some of the lyrics, and allowed his 11-year-old son, Robert, to listen to the group's music.

"Every generation has its Beatles, its Crosby Stills and Nash, its James Dean, who did things that some folks didn't approve of," Nachtigal said.

When asked whether the adult nature of his lyrics ran into criticism when the group was helping schools, Nelly said his lyrics are just like any other group looking to push the envelope.

"Hip-hop has run into a lot of resistance," Nelly said. "Any time the youth is speaking, there's always going to be resistance."

Nelly challenged students in the state to increase their attendance and to do well on the state's standardized tests. Nelly said he was disappointed by his classmates' poor attendance when he attended high school in St. Louis and just wanted to do something to help.

"It's a way to give back for us," he said.

Dozens of Missouri Highway Patrol officers provided security for the group, with many fans gathering to get autographs and a glimpse of the rappers.