By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
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"Well, now labels know we actually have some talent here," Chan observes. "A lot of the artists don't like it that Nelly got the break first 'cause they don't feel he represents the hip-hop community as a whole. They're jealous. Nelly has nice rhymes, but he's not considered a lyricist to a lot of the purists who are really into hip-hop. They're happy he got it -- I'm happy he got it, because I think he deserves it, putting in time and work -- it's just that when it comes down to this hip-hop thing, a lot of cats who're really serious about it, they'd rather see somebody who was a little grittier -- for instance, the Gatekeepers, Cujo. Those kind of guys, rhyme-wise, they real gritty, they hardcore, they would be like our equivalent of like what Biggie and 'Pac was. A lot of people here would have liked someone like that to have gotten it, because it would have made us look a little rougher. But that's just St. Louis, you know? No matter what you do, there's always going to be something."
But even the most disgruntled rival would concede that Nelly has transformed the face of the local hip-hop scene. "People now realize that we can actually do it," Chan remarks. "I mean, people wanted to see Nelly do it, they wanted to see the Lunatics get theirs, but it was, like, 'I don't know if they gonna be that good at it'-type thing. 'I don't know how the rest of the world gonna accept us,' and then, 6 million albums later, you know, it's like, 'Whoa, damn -- he did it, we can do it,' and I think it motivated a lot of people, 'cause we must have at least 60 local record labels here. People are now starting to know we can actually get somewhere; Abyss is talking to Def Jam, my man Julé has been dealing with Def Jam, Bad Boy, Ruff Ryder. The labels are looking here for acts to see if there's someone else."
Already they've zoned in on Toya, the teenage cutie from Webster Groves who's poised to dominate the R&B charts with her fantastic single "I Do," on Arista. Like Nelly, Toya poses in Cardinals gear, proudly representing the Lou. "She's a singer, not a rapper, but the track that they're playing ["I Do"] sounds like something Nelly's producer Jay E. [Epperson] would have done," Chan notes. "It kind of mimics it a little bit. They've got the same management now, too; they didn't at first.
"There's a lot of talent in the Midwest," Chan continues. "The problem is, a lot of Midwest cats, they get signed, and even when they may rep their city, they still get the stigma of who they sign with. Like, Bone [Thugs-N-Harmony] was from Cleveland, but they worked with Eazy, and even though they were saying Cleveland in their songs, people were just like, 'Bone, they from LA.' Da Brat was from Chicago -- she said Chicago, but they don't associate Da Brat with Chicago; most time they say, 'Aw, she from Atlanta,' because of Jermaine Dupri. Common Sense was from Chicago, but his style of music was so East Coast, they just said 'East Coast.' Everybody knows Nelly is St. Louis. They don't associate Nelly with no other city but St. Louis."
Say what you will, uptight critics and embittered hatas. Nelly has put St. Louis on the map, and no one can take that away from him, from us. For this he deserves -- if not the keys to the city -- a few measly Slammies.The Spiders may be a great punk-rock band, but the notion of punk rock is so vague these days as to be almost meaningless, applied to everything from chugga-chugga metal to pop music to atonal noise to guys-with-acoustic-guitars-singing-songs-about-girls. Better just to say the Spiders are a great band and, because they've been playing out since only last July, Slammies voters went ahead and took it that next step, proclaiming them St. Louis' best new act.
The Spiders are still very much a new band -- in all the right ways. No jaded cynicism is to be had from Sleazus Christ, Combustible Jaxon, Bucket Head or the Athletic Spider; they still seem excited about shows, whether they're playing the Way Out Club or the late, lamented Centro Sociale or some guy's basement. They still seem excited to be in a band, fliering aggressively and befriending other groups. They still seem excited about rock & roll in general, and that excitement is contagious. A live performance by the Spiders reminds one of the transcendence of great rock & roll. As the band tears through "Cocaine Cowboy" and "Faders Up," Jaxon shakes like Iggy Pop, drops to his knees like James Brown and wields his microphone stand like Freddie Mercury, all the while belting out the hits in his soulful yelp. The rest of the band doesn't slack, either, getting tighter with every show without losing their sense of danger, as if the songs could go flying off in any direction at any moment.
-- René Spencer Saller