By Scott T. Sterling

When Nelly broke out of St. Louis in 2000 with the smash hit album Country Grammar, the Midwestern rapper always made a point to give much shine to his eastern Missouri home base. From the album’s opening track, “Saint Louie,” to his crew being named the St. Lunatics, Nelly’s diehard dedication to all things St. Louis is well documented (and belies the fact that he was actually born in Austin, TX, moving to Missouri as a teen).

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That hometown devotion most definitely applies the to city’s professional sports franchises, with the rapper proud to revel in his “homer” status during a recent interview with

“The Cardinals, man, of course. The champs,” Nelly enthused about the city’s Major League Baseball team that went to the 2013 World Series as the National League champions, ultimately falling short to the Boston Red Sox. “The Yankees have got more rings than us. They got a s***load more rings than everybody. But we’re second and we’re climbing. We’ll catch ’em.”

He cites the Cardinals’ Busch Stadium as his favorite baseball venue: “Why would I say anything else? You should know that. I’m a homer, man.”

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When asked about his most painful sports memory, Nelly recalled Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002, when the St. Louis Rams narrowly lost a closely contested game against the New England Patriots by a mere field goal.

“I still think we got cheated because they stole our plays or whatever,” he said in reference to the notorious “Spygate” controversy when it was alleged that the Patriots secretly (and illegally) taped the Rams’ pregame practice, giving them an unfair advantage in the Super Bowl. “But I think that was the hardest one because we had to do the after-party with the Rams, the ownership and the team, and it was just like, ugh. You have to get up there and perform, and everybody’s a little down. That was probably one of the roughest performances. I had so many friends on that team — Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Dre Bly —these are all my people. This is family, and you know they’re hurt. They wanted that one, they wanted it bad. I was feeling for them.”

While his heart resides firmly in St. Louis, Nelly’s love of sports has found him in business with National Basketball Association franchise the Charlotte Bobcats (who will become the Charlotte Hornets next season), a team in which he has an ownership stake.

“It feels good to be in a situation of learning,” he said of the experience with the North Carolina-based team. “My whole reason behind it was to get in and learn…basically keep your mouth shut and your ears open. It’s a dope situation. I get to be in business with one of my favorite people ever in Michael Jordan,” he added in regards to the team’s legendary majority owner. “That’s cool.”

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Nelly, who is currently enjoying a career resurgence thanks in part to connecting with country music duo Florida Georgia Line for the remix of the hit song, “Cruise,” will be doing just that when he takes part in the Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage 2014 (March 16-23, 2014). The cruise will also feature appearances by Ice Cube, John Legend, Charlie Wilson and more.