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Best St. Louisan of 2000

Nelly

It's no doubt strange territory for a 23-year-old kid from a town with few celebrities of similar stature. Were this New York or Los Angeles, there would be role models galore, people who understand celebrity, who know whom to turn to for advice and whom to trust. It has to be a little bit scary, even for someone with a tough exterior. "Well, it can be," he says, "but I've been on my own a long time, ever since I was little. But I always had that good bond with myself. A lot of people don't got that. See, my thing is, I trust myself to do the right thing. I talk to people if I feel I really need to, but I feel like, me, I've been trusting myself for this long, and I'm in a pretty good position, you know what I'm saying, and I've got good influences, as far as my friends I grew up with and their parents."

However Nelly moved from acting the hustler and working the streets to simply portraying the game with music, it's worked, and because of Nelly, a bunch of fellow St. Louisans faced with similar temptations stand a chance of getting a label deal rather than being forced to make another kind of deal. It worked, him trusting himself to do the right thing. "To straight see that that type of shit can come true," says Nelly, and you can hear the joy in his voice, "you're like, 'Yeah! Yeah! I can't believe this right now, what's really going on!' Sometimes I wake up and still think I'm late for work or something, like it was all a dream. But it's definitely here, man. And I'm just happy for St. Louis. We deserve it. We definitely deserve it. In the music industry, it's been a wonderful year. Can't nobody touch us right now. In sports, we got voted the No. 1 city in America. Then to have the No. 1 album in America coming out of St. Louis. What? Who wanna deal with us now?"

-- Randall Roberts

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