Less a rapper than an affably eccentric vocal stylist, Nelly initially drew ire from Hip-Hop purists who claimed that his childlike singsong delivery, shimmering pop inflected beats, and transparently ersatz thug persona did a disservice to the genre. Those who criticize Nelly on the basis of inherited notions about the boundaries of hip-hop are missing out on some of the best pop music of the decade. Sure, some aspects of Nelly’s persona may be laughable but that doesn’t stop the deliriously salacious “E.I.” from being one of the most infectious chant along chart hits this side of the Dixie Cups’ “Iko Iko”. Though they may be simple in comparison with the tongue-twisting cadences of east coast rappers, Nelly’s schoolyard rhymes are delivered with the skill and verve of a seasoned entertainer. The knowing entendres of “Thicky Thicky Girl” and “Ride With Me” trade on the type of joyously leering come-ons that have been an essential component of R&B since its inception. A truly accomplished debut, Country Grammar cloaks its old school R&B roots in enticing pop production and a contemporary lyrical sensibility.