If you're looking for protest rap with socially conscious lyrics and dense soundscapes unlike anything you've heard before, then you've come to the wrong place. But if you're looking for songs about cars and girls with sing-song rhymes and bouncy, big-bottom beats, then you may want to hold your party here. As the deliberately off-key, drawling vocals on "Midwest Swing" suggest, these down-to-earth rappers aren't at great risk of taking themselves too seriously; they're more interested in shout outs to St. Louis and having a good time in general. Fans of Nelly will probably enjoy his work on this album, but it should be noted that St. Lunatics is a group and not just a Nelly side-project. Murphy Lee's rougher, faster, and higher-pitched mic style complements Nelly's highly recognizable voice, while Ali, Kyjuan, and City Spud (whose incarceration inspired the album's title) also contribute to this album. Unfortunately, their rhymes and deliveries are often fairly unremarkable, so Nelly remains the dominant voice on Free City, even though he shares time with his peeps. It's producer Jason "Jay E" Epperson, however, who's the album's MVP; he keeps the music interesting even when the raps aren't particularly memorable. There are relatively few guest stars here, but Brian McKnight sings joyfully on the lovers' track "Groovin' Tonight," which features an interesting light jazz loop, and Penelope shows plenty of attitude on "Jan a Lang." Overall, this album isn't quite as catchy as Country Grammar, but it's still a relatively affable party album.
AllMusic Review by Todd Kristel
feat: Murphy Lee