Nelly: Respect Due

Respect due. Rapper Nelly has been noticeably missing from the hip-hop scene for a couple of years. But he’s back, and he knows for sure that you haven’t 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 […]

Respect due.

Rapper Nelly has been noticeably missing from the hip-hop scene for a couple of years.

But he’s back, and he knows for sure that you haven’t 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 2000’s 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 style’s 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 couldn’t escape the infectious “take off all your clothes” hook on 2002’s “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. 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. You have two kids…

Nelly: Yeah, but I like to say I have four. My sister passed away, and she had two… You take care of her kids, too?

Nelly: With the help of others, but yeah. What about the St. Lunatics? What’s up with them?

Nelly: We actually have a project that we’re 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 he’s 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 didn’t 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 he’s gonna get out, and that doesn’t happen, and then this doesn’t happen, you know what I’m saying? So he went straight from prison to the studio?

Nelly: Non-stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Let’s start that record. [laughter]

It’s been about seven or eight years since “Hot in Herre,” “Air Force Ones,” all of the awards, the Grammys. You’ve won every kind of award there is to win. How has your life changed in the past decade or so?

Nelly: It’s 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 don’t 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. I’ve been so used to moving around as a whole, so moving around now doesn’t bother me at all. You talked about your childhood. And other than things like the beef with KRS-One and others, you’ve kept your nose pretty clean in the industry. Any beef right now? Any rivalries or people whose neck your coming at?


Nah. I think it’s one of those things where how you come in the game is how you’re gonna be levied on or sustain your success – or, what’s not allowing you to succeed. Sometimes you can come in the game one way, and you keep trying that way, and that’s 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 it’s personal – I mean, don’t get it twisted cuz, I’m from St. Louis, you know what I’m saying. We get it in. If you got something to say to me, then say it. You shouldn’t have, ‘cause I ain’t in your business. I ain’t got nothing to do with you, and I ain’t 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 don’t work for me. My fans don’t buy my albums because they want to hear me go talk about somebody else. My fans don’t 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 they’ve been purchasing and supporting, so there’s no room in my career for that.

Nelly – “Just A Dream” What’s 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 I’m saying, those are true fans. You got fans that are like ‘I ain’t really like that last album,’ but they bought it. You see what I’m saying? And then you have some fans that if they don’t like the album, they ain’t 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 don’t 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 y’all talking with the beef and all that. I think the worst thing I could have tried to do is act like I’m 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 that’s what comes with maturity. You get to understand. I make a record now and I’m 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 that’s what it is. You have stuck with what works over the years….

Nelly: I’ve tried. Don’t get it twisted. You do sometimes stray off the path, but when you have so much success on so many different levels…I’m saying, I have what, eight or nine #1s. But when you look at them, they’re all different type of songs. They’re “Grillz,” they’re “Ride Wit Me’s,” they’re “Over and Over’s,” they’re “Tailfeathers,” they’re “EI’s,” they’re “Air Force Ones,” but they’re “Dilemmas,” they’re “My Place’s.” And so you’re 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 you’re going back in. You’ve done a ton of endorsements, and you were one of the first to have a really successful clothing line, for women at that. What’s 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 you’re looking for a fast buck, you’re 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 they’re cutting the rope. That’s what I’ve 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. Well, no one’s selling CDs these days. What do you think needs to change about the industry model? You’ve always been willing to work with country artists and Kelly Rowland…

Nelly: Country is selling CDs – don’t get that twisted. Country people are buying records, they’re still buying records. I think now people aren’t buying into the artists per se. It’s not artists coming out with great albums…it’s artists coming out with hit songs. They’re selling songs, but they’re not selling albums. But when you sell an album, you’re selling yourself with it. People are buying into YOU, you know what I’m saying?

Nelly – “Tippin’ In The Club

If you’ve got a #1 single, and people aren’t buying your records, and you’re doing all this dumb sh*t, people aren’t buying into you. People like your songs, but they’re not buying into you enough to say, ‘I tell you what, I’ma get that album because I’ma support his whole thing.’ It’s ‘I like that song,’ and that’s what you get a lot…’I’ll buy that song.’

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? What’s the flavor like?

Nelly: I named the album 5.0. I mean, if you know anything about cars, such as I do – everybody knows I’m a car freak, and that’s 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] We’ll just say that.

If you look at the 5.0, it’s a classic muscle car. It’s full of energy, and it’s a clean car so to speak. It’s a clean cut, muscle car, and it’s that classicness. I thought this album would be that for Nelly. It’s a classic sounding Nelly, but for 2010…not like you’ve 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 I’m saying, it’s like why not do it to the fullest? That’s what I think 5.0 is – Nelly doing what he do to the fullest. That’s why I named it 5.0, and it’s 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, “She’s So Fly.” Dr. Luke who some people may know or heard of, who’s only had, what, the last 10 #1s when you think about some of his songs with Katy Perry and other things that he’s produced. It’s also featuring myself, Akon, and T-Pain. I got a track produced by Infamous which features myself, Baby and DJ Khaled.

It’s a good mixture, but it flows well, and like I said again, it’s Nelly. Ok, a funny question. If the head’s right, is Nelly really there EVERY night?

Nelly: [hilarious laughter] Possibly. But every night is a wish.