What Run-D.M.C. did for Adidas and Busta Rhymes did for Courvoisier, Ali is doing for the dry cleaning industry.
With the title of his debut solo album, Heavy Starch, the St. Lunatics rapper reveals the secret to the distinguishable look of a St. Louis b-boy.
“We wear our pants so baggy that you need to get them heavy starch at the dry cleaners so they don’t just hang all over,” Ali said Thursday from a Lunatic-packed tour bus en route to Kansas City. “I wanted to make everything [about the album] as St. Louis as possible.”
If the idea of a rapper standing in line at the dry cleaners sounds a bit odd to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Ali agrees, and even created a word and a song about it: “Boughetto.”
“It’s a combination of words. It’s boughi (slang for bourgeois) and ghetto,” Ali explained. “Before we got the rap deal, our life was ghetto. We got the deal and got a little money, and all of the sudden we find ourselves in situations like in L.A. at parties with caviar. I’m like, ‘What is this?’ Little bitty finger foods. After a while, we always find ourselves in situations like that. ‘Yo, this is like boughi.’ If you got the Nike Air Force One tennis shoes and you get the Louis Vuitton put on the side, that’s boughetto.”
If that definition doesn’t explain it well enough, Ali and fellow St. Lunatic Murphy Lee – who appears on the song, the first single from Heavy Starch – have teamed with director Marc Klasfield (Pink, Linkin Park) for a video stocked with further examples.
“[For the] first verse, I was at an industry party talking to a girl who was boughi ‘ ‘Cause her shoes cost a grand/ But she’s ghetto ’cause she cusses too much and talks with her hands,’ ” Ali said. “Then the second verse is Murphy Lee’s verse and we’re in a little bodega, corner store, shopping in a mink coat. The third verse, I was in a Lamborghini, and the whole time you see me in it with a chick, and then at the end you see I’m getting towed.”
“Boughetto” was produced by newcomer Wally Yaghnam, though most of the tracks on the album, due April 30, were produced by Jason “Jay E” Epperson, the man behind Nelly’s Country Grammar.
Nelly himself appears on four Heavy Starch tracks, all with Murphy Lee and Kyjuan as well. Other guests include fellow St. Louis native Toya, Universal Records labelmate Ms. Toi, former Xscape singer Kandi, Ray Ray and the St. Louis Alumni, a collective of local rappers Ali gathered specifically for the album.
“All the rappers from the ‘hood who’ve been doing it for a long time, I just wanted to give them an opportunity,” Ali said. “We’ve got a lot of recognition, but I wanted to recognize them. They all played a part in our lives. Somewhere along the line they made it possible for us.”
Ali, who, like Nelly, mostly creates a party atmosphere with his vocal and lyrical approach, does have a serious side, which he said is the second meaning behind Heavy Starch. “Some of the issues I talk about on my album are a little bit heavier than you normally get from the Lunatics,” he said.
Among the more profound Ali tracks are “Crucial,” about the importance of safe sex, and “Collection Plate,” about what Ali calls “the fake reverends.” “You know, they drive all expensive cars, they ain’t really into it, just fakin’ it,” he said.
Ali, who just finished touring with Nas, will appear at St. Louis’ Streetside Records on April 30, the day Heavy Starch hits stores, and will follow with a string of in-store appearances around the country.
St. Lunatics will be on the road together this summer in support of Nelly’s second album, Nellyville, due June 25, after which the group will begin recording its next record and Murphy Lee’s solo debut.
“We’ve got a little something special in the bag,” Ali said. “But we’re going to take our time, so you’ll have to be patient.”
Heavy Starch Track List, According To Universal:
“I Got This”
“Crucial” f/ Murphy Lee
“No” f/ Nelly, Murphy Lee and Kyjuan
“Boughetto” f/ Murphy Lee
“Wiggle Wiggle” f/ Nelly, Murphy Lee and Kyjuan
“Drop Top” f/ Kandi
“Collection Plate” f/ Nelly, Murphy Lee and Kyjuan