St. Lunatics – “Midwest Swing”

Released: 4.3.01

Peak: #88

Let us now praise Murphy Lee, the second greatest St. Lunatic of them all. I know, fraternizing with the likes of Dupri and Diddy wasn’t likely to earn a young player respect, not this decade anyway, but I stand by his solo hit “What the Hook Gon’ Be?” and even the nigh-universally despised Puff-Nelly-Murph tag team romp “Shake Ya Tailfeather.” No, Lee’s “They be like ‘He the man’ when I’m really a Thundercat!” doesn’t quite top Nelly’s “Is that yo ass or your mama half-reindeer?” But its absurdity is in the same playful league.

Of course, Nelly upstages him immediately here too, with his incredulous “What you think, we live on a FARM?” Well, yeah, plenty of dumbasses on both coasts probably did, and they deserved the dismissive “Nigga, be for real” with which the rapper answered his hypothetical. There are plenty of cities on CST that ain’t Chicago; St. Louis just happened to be the one whose favorite son made it big. And wise guy producer Jason “Jay-E” Epperson makes mock of bicoastal ignorance with his interspersed rhythmic chickens and cows. (The radio edit, with even more barnyard sounds subbing for the cusses, is the best aural camouflage of its kind since the RZA’s slashing swords.)

But if Nelly flows like a star on the upswing, the way self-professed “sixteen year-old schoolboy” Murph struts through “Midwest Swing” (or, I guess, doesn’t strut–“You can tell by the way I walk I ain’t from ’round hurr/ Probably couldn’t tell cuz I ain’t walkin nowhurr”) exemplifies the excitement of a small-timer basking in his moment. Murphy, Ali, Kyjuan, City Spud, and Slo’Down had come a long way from their first regional hit, “Gimme What You Got” (locatable on the uneven, semi-official comp Who’s the Boss), or even their first posse cut, the Jeffersons-biting “Batter Up” (though I’ll always encourage rappers who prefer baseball to hoops, just as I rep for those who prefer any other gangster movie to Scarface.)

As star coattail-hits go, “Midwest Swing” is far more “The Glamorous Life” than, say, “Centipede.” And if nine years later I still don’t know the importance of blue Cutlasses to the African-American population of St. Louis, every morning that I don’t wedge myself into an F Train I sure as hell understand Kyjuan’s boast that “we got space out here.”

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