Straight out of St. Louis, Missouri, Nelly lacked the big city following East and West coast rappers enjoyed. Location did not stop him from becoming one of the biggest stars of his generation. He even still defends his adopted home town, telling Rolling Stone, “St. Louis has a lot of blues and jazz history — it’s a soulful place, and I incorporate that. Instead of getting on top of the beat, I get inside it, as if I’m adding another instrument to the groove.”

Nelly, an Air Force brat born in 1978 who lived in Texas, Spain and Missouri while growing up, was born Cornell Haynes, Jr. An avid baseball player, he attended training camps for the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates before settling full-time on music. A hit from the time he left his small St. Louis band, Nelly was a true overnight sensation.

He also might just believe in the power of the number three. His first three albums reached #1 on the Billboard album charts, led by Country Grammar, his first album, which sold more than a million and a half copies in its first few months of release. Nelly also scored three #1 singles from those albums and has won 3 Grammys through 2005.