2002 Riverfront Times Music Award Winners

Your verdict is in: Check out St. Louisí favorite local musicians.

 St. Lunatics
Best Rap, Recording of the Year

It's been a very good year for the St. Lunatics, individually and collectively. In the twelve months since their crewmate Nelly swept the 2001 Riverfront Times Music Awards, bringing home three of what were then known as Slammies, the 'Tics have released a platinum CD of their own, Free City. Ali, the group's founder and unofficial leader, dropped his solo debut, Heavy Starch, last month; it's still too soon to tell whether it will move millions of units, but it's a smart, solid record, one that amply demonstrates Ali's lyrical skills and his ability to transcend his crew's party-centric reputation. Murphy Lee, the babyfaced clown of the collective, represents da Lou on the monster-hit remix of Jermaine Dupri's "Welcome to Atlanta" and is laying down tracks for his solo debut, to be released later this year on Universal.

Nelly, of course, is unstoppable. For more than two years, his Country Grammar has lingered stubbornly on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and his collaboration with 'N Sync on their "Girlfriend" remix, produced by hip-hop wunderkinds the Neptunes, expands his dominion still further. His widely anticipated sophomore full-length, Nellyville, hits the streets in June. Already the first single, "Hot in Herre," shows every sign of becoming a gigantic summer smash, a certain staple of the airwaves and the strip clubs alike. What makes us so sure? Well, the Neptunes produced it, for one thing. But even in the unlikely event that he never makes another hit record, Nelly has Made It. He'll always be a superstar the likes of which St. Louis hasn't seen since Chuck Berry in his salad days.

Given their myriad achievements, it's no surprise that the Lunatics are taking home two of this year's RFTMA awards. In addition to their unprecedented commercial success, their commitment to community service -- particularly their innovative campaign to improve attendance and test scores among at-risk area high-school students -- has won them the respect of people who aren't generally fans of hip-hop. Although they can never quite escape controversy -- snooty purists call them bubblegum lightweights; opportunistic politicians call them incorrigible thugs -- the Lunatics keep doing their thing: cranking out the party anthems, touring the nation's stadiums, playing basketball with inner-city teens and organizing charitable foundations to curb gang violence. Say what you will about the Lunatics: They've put St. Louis on the pop-music map again, and no local celebrities in recent memory have worked harder to do right by their hometown. They won their two awards by a landslide, so evidently St. Louisans are giving back the love. (RSS)

St. Lunatics & Highway Matrons
St. Lunatics & Highway Matrons
Steve O & Bottle Rockets Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann (Robert Kearns not pictured)
Steve O & Bottle Rockets Brian Henneman and Mark Ortmann (Robert Kearns not pictured)

Highway Matrons
Best Rock Band

Countless scores of people in town can and will tell you about the greatness of the Matrons, about the fantastic shows, the heart-rending live performance of their favorite song, the drunken blowouts that end in a riot of whoops and hollers and a silvery, staccato flash of spoons. But the truth is, the Highway Matrons were not even present at their greatest performance.

Early one Sunday morning, in the hallowed racks of Vintage Vinyl, just moments after the store opened, the Matrons' long-awaited album Nothing Is Better lurched and reeled through the store's sound system. As the dedicated music hounds flipped through the CDs, trying to find their one thing before the weekenders flooded the store and ruined everything, they were serenaded by the Highway Matrons' tales of love and loneliness and love again. The sound of the Matrons, that dulcet, raw, hard-edged but not hard-hearted, grainy black-and-white newspaper photograph of the human soul sound that Mark Stephens makes when he's sure it will never be all right ever again -- that sound cut through the click of jewel boxes and the sleepy chatter of the clerks and the very thoughts of everyone present, and soon the only sound in the store was the Highway Matrons. For that one moment, a roomful of strangers had something, everything in common: the Highway Matrons. Everything else just fell away, and the pale, prerecorded reflected image of the Matrons shimmered and shone like the face of Jesus in a dinged spoon.

This is a victory not just for Matrons Stephens, Fred Friction and Mark Sheridan but for rock & roll itself. Finally the Highway Matrons have shed all hyphens, all comparisons, all the bullshit that goes along with being St. Louis' perpetual "next big thing" and are being recognized for what they are: the best damn rock band in town. Rock & roll is immediately healthier, sexier and more fun by association. (PF)

Best Club DJ

House music leaped from Lake Michigan less than 20 years ago and hit the Chicago dance floors with an inherent momentum. Think about that the next time you hear the boom-boom behind a Bug commercial -- four-and-a-half hours north of here, a global phenomenon was hatched, and from there it leaped the Atlantic and hit, in full stride, London, where the Brits, all hopped up on E and joy, seized it, snuggled it and transformed the bass boom into a love bomb. Eventually it took a redeye flight back over the pond and landed in all parts of the U.S., and a worldwide revolution was born.

Next Page »