Rapper Nelly has been noticeably missing from the hip-hop scene for a couple of years.
But hes back, and he knows for sure that you havent forgotten him. Why? because every time you turn on the radio or TV and hear a rapper singing on a track these days, he says you should think of him.
After all, with 2000s Country Grammar, Nelly had the hardcore rap community scratching their collective heads at his unique style of crooning and gliding over the beat, rather than simply speaking his lyrics. Nine million albums later, hip-hop had no choice but to respect Nelly for pioneering the styles popularity amongst the dominant mainstream rap sounds at the time.
When Nelly hit the scene, layering his St. Louis-southern anthems over Country-Western, rock, and club bangers alike, he was ahead of his time, capturing the attention of a diverse audience that included young Blacks, whites, rednecks, and everything in between. Toddlers, mothers, and grandmas couldnt escape the infectious take off all your clothes hook on 2002s Hot in Herre, and Grillz was just one of four Nelly singles to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 during the decade.
Now, the challenge before Nelly is the conquest of a new era in Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: You just released some new music, but your presence has been noticeably missing for at least the past two years. So, what have you been up to?
Nelly: Just working in the studio, on my clothing line, being a daddy.
AllHipHop.com: You have two kids
Nelly: Yeah, but I like to say I have four. My sister passed away, and she had two
AllHipHop.com: You take care of her kids, too?
Nelly: With the help of others, but yeah.
AllHipHop.com: What about the St. Lunatics? Whats up with them?
Nelly: We actually have a project that were trying to get out in November as well. The new album is called City Free. The first St. Lunatics album was called Free City. That was in honor of my little brother City Spud. At that time, he had gotten locked up, so the album was called Free City. And now hes out, and the new album is called City Free. We always wanted to do new St. Lunatics projects, and we were kind of waiting on him. That process was so unsteady, because we assumed he was getting out at this time, and this point, and this moment, and it didnt happen. So he finally got out nine years later. Had we known it was gonna take nine years, we might have done another St. Lunatics album. But when you think hes gonna get out, and that doesnt happen, and then this doesnt happen, you know what Im saying?
AllHipHop.com: So he went straight from prison to the studio?
Nelly: Non-stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Lets start that record. [laughter]
AllHipHop.com: Its been about seven or eight years since Hot in Herre, Air Force Ones, all of the awards, the Grammys. Youve won every kind of award there is to win. How has your life changed in the past decade or so?
Nelly: Its pretty much at a dormancy now. I was used to moving around, because as a kid, I went to like nine different schools, I lived in I dont know how many different places because my parents got divorced at a young age. So that happened, and my mother was still kinda doing her, and my father definitely still doing him. So when you do that, you live with other people, you stay with friends and family, and things of that nature. Ive been so used to moving around as a whole, so moving around now doesnt bother me at all.
AllHipHop.com: You talked about your childhood. And other than things like the beef with KRS-One and others, youve kept your nose pretty clean in the industry. Any beef right now? Any rivalries or people whose neck your coming at?
Nelly: Nah. I think its one of those things where how you come in the game is how youre gonna be levied on or sustain your success or, whats not allowing you to succeed. Sometimes you can come in the game one way, and you keep trying that way, and thats not allowing you to succeed. Then you switch it up, and then you succeed. If you come in in a way that allows you to succeed and then you stray from it, it kinda backfires on you.
With me, I always wanted to come in and just do me. So beefs and all that s**t ? Unless its personal I mean, dont get it twisted cuz, Im from St. Louis, you know what Im saying. We get it in. If you got something to say to me, then say it. You shouldnt have, cause I aint in your business. I aint got nothing to do with you, and I aint never thought about nothing like that. But if you feel like you need to step to me
As far as beefs in music, I try to stay away from that, because that dont work for me. My fans dont buy my albums because they want to hear me go talk about somebody else. My fans dont come to my concerts because they want to hear me stand on stage and diss somebody else. They come to see Nelly. They come to see and hear the songs that theyve been purchasing and supporting, so theres no room in my career for that.
Nelly - "Just A Dream"
AllHipHop.com: Whats the formula in Hip-Hop for growing old gracefully and still being that dude?
Nelly: Fans. Just fans. I think when you solidify a certain type of fan base that wants to grow with you, that wants to see you succeed everytime, whether they agree with it or not. See what Im saying, those are true fans. You got fans that are like I aint really like that last album, but they bought it. You see what Im saying? And then you have some fans that if they dont like the album, they aint buy it them the fans that come and go. The fans that support you are the ones that support you regardless. Not saying that they should, because they dont have to, but those are the ones.
Sometimes I think we get lost in trying to go after fans I think the worst thing I could ever do is try to make people who have never supported me, support me. Like the sh*t yall talking with the beef and all that. I think the worst thing I could have tried to do is act like Im a battle rapper, or try to spit and prove something to the muthaf*ckas who never supported Nelly in the beginning, and then alienating the people who supported me and that love me.
I think thats what comes with maturity. You get to understand. I make a record now and Im like yo, if I try to do all of this other sh*t why? This sh*t comes so easy to me. Not saying I can make Just a Dream and Over and Over and make them be #1s everytime, but that sh*t is easy to me. I do them songs three, four a day [snapping off four fingers], because thats what it is.
AllHipHop.com: You have stuck with what works over the years .
Nelly: Ive tried. Dont get it twisted. You do sometimes stray off the path, but when you have so much success on so many different levels Im saying, I have what, eight or nine #1s. But when you look at them, theyre all different type of songs. Theyre Grillz, theyre Ride Wit Mes, theyre Over and Overs, theyre Tailfeathers, theyre EIs, theyre Air Force Ones, but theyre Dilemmas, theyre My Places. And so youre like what the f*ck to do? You got some people that support this, and some people that support that, and like I said, again, you get caught up. The same thing that made you successful is the same thing that hinders you sometimes when youre going back in.
AllHipHop.com: Youve done a ton of endorsements, and you were one of the first to have a really successful clothing line, for women at that. Whats your #1 rule as an entrepreneur?
Nelly: I think again, with maturity, it has to be your involvement. You have to really be involved at a certain points in it. It used to be you could lend your name to certain things and make a fast buck which, if youre looking for a fast buck, youre also looking for a fast end.
But if you want to sustain any consistency or build something, you have to be there when the foundation is laid. You have to be there when the bricks go up. You have to be there when theyre cutting the rope. Thats what Ive learned, so now, when I do try to go into some of these other endeavors, I try to make sure that a) I can be involved as much as I need to to make it successful and b) that this is something I can integrate into everything else I have going on.
AllHipHop.com: Well, no ones selling CDs these days. What do you think needs to change about the industry model? Youve always been willing to work with country artists and Kelly Rowland
Nelly: Country is selling CDs dont get that twisted. Country people are buying records, theyre still buying records. I think now people arent buying into the artists per se. Its not artists coming out with great albums its artists coming out with hit songs. Theyre selling songs, but theyre not selling albums. But when you sell an album, youre selling yourself with it. People are buying into YOU, you know what Im saying?
Nelly - "Tippin' In The Club
If youve got a #1 single, and people arent buying your records, and youre doing all this dumb sh*t, people arent buying into you. People like your songs, but theyre not buying into you enough to say, I tell you what, Ima get that album because Ima support his whole thing. Its I like that song, and thats what you get a lot Ill buy that song.
AllHipHop.com: I want to ask you about the new project. You have Tippin in Da Club and Just a Dream as the first two singles. Who else is on the album? Whats the flavor like?
Nelly: I named the album 5.0. I mean, if you know anything about cars, such as I do everybody knows Im a car freak, and thats not just by chance. Being a young Black man who has money and likes to go around and buy cars I was influenced by my father who was influenced by his father who was influenced by his father. They kept three or four cars. Now, were they good cars? They might have been junkers, but they were their cars. They took pride in them, and my dad used to street race cars, amongst other things with cars. [laughter] Well just say that.
If you look at the 5.0, its a classic muscle car. Its full of energy, and its a clean car so to speak. Its a clean cut, muscle car, and its that classicness. I thought this album would be that for Nelly. Its a classic sounding Nelly, but for 2010 not like youve heard me before. It is more melodic.
I also think that with so many people kinda doing what the f*ck I do, you know what Im saying, its like why not do it to the fullest? Thats what I think 5.0 is Nelly doing what he do to the fullest. Thats why I named it 5.0, and its also my fifth drop date my sixth album, but my fifth drop date.
Some of the producers on there a la Jim Johnson who produced Just a Dream, Dutch and Jukebox who produced Tippin in Da Club. Jim Johnson also produced the track with me and Kelly Rowland, the Gone track; T.I.s SmashFactory who produced the track that me and T.I. are on, Shes So Fly. Dr. Luke who some people may know or heard of, whos only had, what, the last 10 #1s when you think about some of his songs with Katy Perry and other things that hes produced. Its also featuring myself, Akon, and T-Pain. I got a track produced by Infamous which features myself, Baby and DJ Khaled.
Its a good mixture, but it flows well, and like I said again, its Nelly.
AllHipHop.com: Ok, a funny question. If the heads right, is Nelly really there EVERY night?
Nelly: [hilarious laughter] Possibly. But every night is a wish.