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Controversial Rapper Gets Honor From Missouri Governor

February 5, 2002
By: Missy Shelton
State Capital Bureau

A St Louis rapper whose lyrics refer to drug use and explicit sex acts receives recognition from Missouri's governor for his efforts to improve education in his hometown.

Missy Shelton reports.

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Even though Nelly and his band, the St. Lunatics, have encouraged St. Louis-city schools to raise their scores on state tests, some state lawmakers say he shouldn't be recognized for that work.

The problem, lawmakers say, has to do with the songs' lyrics.

But Jerry Nachtigal, the governor's spokesman, says the point of giving the nationally-reknowned musicians a proclamation is to praise them for their education efforts, not comment on the band's music.

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Though the governor did not comment directly on Nelly's music, Nachtigal says the governor does allow his 11-year-old son to listen to Nelly's recordings.

Criticism for the governor's decision to honor Nelly and his band came mostly from Republican lawmakers like St. Louis County Rep. Jane Cunningham.

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At a ceremony in the state capitol building, the governor presented Nelly and his band with a proclamation for their efforts in St. Louis-city schools.

Nelly told reporters why he decided to get involved with promoting participation and improvement on state tests.

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But overshadowing the group's efforts to give back to their community are the lyrics of their music.

Republican lawmaker Chuck Portwood read lyrics from one of the band's songs.

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The governor's spokesman, Jerry Nachtigal, dismisses Portwood's criticism.

He says popular music has always drawn criticism from authority figures.

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Nelly and his band attended a reception at the governor's mansion and received a resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives.

Nelly maintains several residences in the state.

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