AHHA: How has motherhood affected you?
Nelly: Motherhood has just made me more like, alive. Its made me more sexy, and I feel more in control. I feel more assertive as an individual. Something happened to me in Miami. Miami just kinda its a sexy place and its hot all the time. And you know, youre wearing your bathing suit all day, youre at the beach. I was with my daughter a lot – shes almost three now. When you have such a little rambunctious child around you, you get down on the ground and play with the toys again, you know? Its kind of a metaphor for life. And thats why the album feels so youthful and vibrant. Its because shes re-energized me as a person, and I would just feel more like Ive come into my own as a person. I feel very happy and have a lot of energy to give.
AHHA: How does it feel to be a sex symbol after giving birth?
Nelly: I think its really cool! I think Im kind of proving that you can be both [a sex symbol and a mother]. Im not the first, I know theres a lot of moms touring and singing and raising their kids. I do have more of a gypsy mentality because I bring [my daughter] everywhere. Its funny because now shes started coming to soundchecks; shes old enough. As a parent you have to be yourself. You have to be who you are for your kid. A good parent comes from being yourself. Ill never be June Cleaver, nor do I ever want to be. [laughs]
There are tons of strong women in my family with like eight kids or ten kids. My mom raised two of us and worked six days a week. I dont know any other way of life. So the sexy thing is people ask if Im trying to be sexy, and I say, No I am sexy! [laughs] I think Ive become sexier since Ive become a mom. I love my body more. I have more curves now. Its very natural to me.
AHHA: Many mothers tend to tone their style down after motherhood. Why did you decide to move towards the edgier side of things?
Nelly: You know whats funny? With Folklore, I was five months pregnant when I started recording it, and I was over nine months pregnant when I finished recording it. So in a way, that was like my baby album. That was my maternal album, the more introspective intimate pages of a diary. I talked about my working class roots, my immigrant roots, and just the issues I had with all of that. It wasnt corny, but was just kind of like my therapy album.
AHHA: If Nevis comes to you when she gets older and asks to hear a song of yours that describes your essence, what would you play her?
Nelly: Thats a good question. Probably something like Powerless from my second album, or Partys Just Begun from my first album. Thats like my signature song. My signature style, I think. But then again, I think I have three signature styles [laughs]. Its hard to pick one song. Thats a good thing, because I still have more to achieve. Nothings good enough for her. She has really good musical taste. [laughs] At soundcheck she was like, Mommy, I dont like your singing. I think she was kidding. She already writes better than I did when I was thirteen. She listens to instrumentals and all of a sudden she starts making her own song over the beat. We were like Whoa! We didnt want her to notice us, because we didnt want her to feel self-conscious about it, but it was really cool to watch.
AHHA: What was it about Timbaland that has kept you working with him for so long?
Nelly: Timbaland has always fascinated me. From the moment- I think when I really discovered Timbaland was when I bought Supa Dupa Fly, the Missy Elliot CD. I remember seeing it in the store and buying it and being mesmerized by the entire thing front to back. And, you know, whos responsible for this, you know? [laughs] And its like, the day I got the phone call from my record company, You know, Timbaland sampled you. He sampled Whoa, Nelly! my first album, the song Baby Girl would become the song Ching Ching the Miss Jade track. He invited me to the studio, and from the moment we met I was in the booth. He played something and I ran in the booth, put the headphones on and started singing. So he has that effect on me.
When Im in the studio with him, I feel like hes throwing me like a fastball, and I have to hit a home run, but I also have to hit it out of the park, because he puts like this pressure on you, but in a really – hes not even aware of it. Hes just so talented that I really think its genius, you know, because the best artists become the art. Like the dancer becomes the dance. And Tim becomes the beat when hes making it, and the moment he stops feeling it, his body stops moving. The beat is over, and he is outside. Maybe he left for the whole night. Maybe he – you cant even find him in the parking lot. [laughs] So I love that, you know. And sometimes, when I asked him the other day, you know somebody asked him, Why do you like working with Nelly? and he said, Its because tts like working with myself. And the two of us, when were together, we just vibe, you know. Its just a chemistry. Its so hard to explain, but its really cool.
AHHA: You know the last time Timbaland had that much passion in production with an artist was when he worked with Aaliyah.
Nelly: Wow, thats such a compliment! People have been saying that and its just crazy.
AHHA: And what has Timbaland been lifting? Hes jacked!
Nelly: Hes been working out twice a day for like four or five hours, and hes on a strict diet. I encourage him to wear tank tops more. [laughs]
AHHA: What was it like recording at the Hit Factory in Miami?
Working at the Hit Factory in Miami, all sorts of Hip-Hop artists came through. Youve got Scott Storch on one side, youve got Tim on the other side, and Cash Money for a while was working upstairs. So Lil Wayne was rolling by one day and we invited him on a remix for the song called Maneater on my album, because Tim did sort of like a screwed and chopped version of it. Its really really hot. Lil Wayne came and listened to the track one time, and he was like, I gotcha. And then ten minutes later I came back and he was gone, but he had done this incredible like, I think 16 bars, and it was just beautiful. Hes a total genius as well.
AHHA: Are you working on any other side projects?
Nelly: Right now Im working with a Puerto Rican rapper, sort of in the Reggaetón genre. Hes called Residente Calle 13, and his musics wicked. We just shot a video in a village called La Perla in Puerto Rico. We went there like two weeks ago and we shot this really cool like lo-fi video. Its really street, really organic. And its gonna come out soon. Its a remix to the version of the song [No Hay Igual] thats on my album.
AHHA: Resident Calle 13 has been making a lot of noise in Reggaetón.
Nelly: Hes amazing. I met his sister too, whos a singer. Shes probably like – she looks like shes 18 years old. But the way she sings is crazy, because when I listen to her voice it reminds me of the passion that I had for singing when I was 17.
AHHA: What was La Perla like?
Nelly: The streets reminded me of the islands in Portugal where my family is from. [La Perla] looked a lot how I remembered when I was nine and went there. What you start to realize is that when you come from humble roots, the working class, it never goes away. Nobody can take that away from you, because thats your core. Its who you are. Its interesting to me and kind of funny, you know. I was shooting a video with Hype Williams for the song Sh*t on the Radio. We were in some neighborhood in LA. I dont know where we were exactly, but it was not an economically affluent neighborhood. We shot the video in this house, and [Hype] said, Ive gotta warn you, the house, the bathroom is not nice. Were kind of in the hood. And I was like, What are you talking about? This looks like my tias house! [laughs]
I dont blame people hearing me and seeing my career and totally not getting me, because I am so complex with so many influences that even I get tired of saying them all. [laughs] I just do my thing, ya know? I feel like the albums are just scratching the surface. Sometimes the experience of making [the album] is almost even better than the finished product. And thats Hip-Hop I think. Its about the moment.
AHHA: Do you have any dream collaborations?
Nelly: Ive always wanted to work with Eminem actually, because I like his finesse on the microphone. Ive wanted to work with Jay-Z for a long time. Every time I see him, Im like, Jay, come on! Give me a verse! [laughs] Im putting it out there officially on AllHipHop.com.