Lunatics Fringe

Jefferson City lawmakers hit the roof over Nelly's visit to the statehouse

Feb 27, 2002 at 4:00 am
Leave it to the partyphobes of the Grand Old Party to turn a hometown rap star's visit to the Missouri Capitol into an excuse to curry favor with squares -- and get in a few digs at the Dems while they're at it. Rep. Charles Shields (R-St. Joseph) and Rep. Charles Portwood (R-Manchester) gave Nelly the Willie Horton treatment after the platinum-plated bubblegum thug and his crew, the St. Lunatics, received a proclamation from Gov. Bob Holden in recognition of their service to St. Louis-area schools. (Holden's son Robert is a Nelly fan; he listens only to the radio edits, naturally.) But feel-good moments don't last long in the Capitol -- not with elections looming. Portwood griped that his peers in the House should have paid closer attention to Nelly's lyrics before honoring him. Shields objected to the extra security costs associated with the visit -- approximately $8,500. In an interview with the Jefferson City News Tribune published Feb. 19, Shields said, "I'd still be upset about it if we hadn't spent any money to honor this man, because of his advocation of violence and drug use and then his relatively low opinion of law enforcement and women. But the fact that we spent over $8,000 to bring him here and protect him is even more upsetting, I guess, particularly in lieu of [sic] the fiscal constraints that we're under this year."

Never mind that visits by other, less controversial celebrities, such as Walter Cronkite, have occasioned similar security costs without all the self-righteous hoo-ha. Never mind that Nelly and the 'Tics have given hours upon hours of their time -- worth far more than $8,500, any way you look at it -- and have probably done more than any team of fancy high-priced consultants to keep at-risk area students in high school. Unlike most politicians, the Country Grammarian and his crew do more than just talk about the importance of education. Their pledge to play basketball with kids who stay in school and take the Missouri Assessment Program tests was a stroke of genius. Attendance at participating St. Louis city schools went up by 16 percent. At Vashon High School, where students are considered to be at particular risk of dropping out, attendance for the MAP tests went up by 28 percent. But apparently stats such as these don't matter to certain opportunistic politicos, who salivate at every chance to hustle the angry-white-man vote.

Underground hip-hop heroes Altered St8s of Consciousness are poised to release a new seven-song CD, Music for B-Boys and the Women Who Love Them, on Brooklyn-based indie Sondoo Recordings. With inspired cuts and scratches by Wax Murderer Da Fly D-EX, the album is a heady mix of incisive political commentary and hilarious disses, all smartly rhymed by Lyfestile and Amené. "Am I real or just a parody?" isn't something most rappers seem to worry about, but Altered St8s ask themselves this question in "Substance Abuse" -- and the display of vulnerability makes the song infinitely stronger.

The CD's real masterpiece, though, is "9/11." It's not only the first song about the September terrorist attacks that we've received from a local act, it's the first song we've heard about the subject that doesn't turn our stomach. As catchy as it is politically astute, the song asks the hard questions, the kind the national media usually overlook amid the frenzied flag-waving. After expressing their horror at the loss of innocent life, the rappers take aim at the real villains, the ones who created the conditions that made Osama bin Laden a reality: This shit started way before September .../America's the terrorist to the Third World/Loves exploiting other people as long as it serves her .../Is it justice or just about energy?/A race to control the oil in the vicinity .../The war is the new world order in disguise.

Herewith, a selection of shows officially sanctioned by Radar Station: On Wednesday, March 6, Matador recording artists Bardo Pond bring their hallucinatory space-skronk to the Rocket Bar. Proof that a band with a flutist doesn't necessarily suck, the Philadelphia fuzzmeisters have been making challenging, evocative post-rock for nearly a decade now; their last album, 2001's Dilate, is a richly textured triumph.

Also on March 6, reggae artists Sanchez and Terry Linen perform at the Galaxy. Tom "Papa" Ray told us by voice mail that Sanchez is like a Jamaican Al B. Sure. Yeah, we don't really know what to make of that simile, either, but it certainly sounds intriguing. In any case, big-name reggae artists don't pass through our town very often, so by all means see why these artists pack the dance halls in their native land.

The Dragons will grace the Creepy Crawl on March 4 in support of their new album, Rock 'N' Roll Kamikaze (Junk Records). Led by Mario Escovedo of the multitalented Escovedo clan (his brother's Alejandro, his cousin's Sheila E.), the San Diego-based quartet makes high-octane glammy garage-punk in the tradition of the New York Dolls, the Rolling Stones and Guitar Wolf.