about: the Artist
In the summer months of 2000, steam rose off the banks of the Mississippi River. With the single "Hot," Cornell "Nelly" Haynes, an unknown rapper from a sleepy Midwestern metropolis stunned the recording industry, selling over a quarter of a million copies of his debut album Country Grammar during its first week of release. Nelly quickly proved his star potential with follow up singles "E.I" and "Ride Wit Me" on an album that would go onto sell 9 million copies -- the spirited rapper from St. Louis, Missouri had indeed brought the heat.
Out of the gate, the staying power of this breakout artist from the Midwest was underestimated by coastal critics, a naïve assumption that Nelly would easily overcome. Two years later, his sophomore album Nellyville established his widespread appeal, selling 6 million albums and earning him two Grammies for the singles "Hot in Herre" and "Dilemma."
The gateway to the Wild West, St. Louis has long struck a chord producing unforgettable talents that stand the test of time - Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner and Miles Davis. For a generation raised with hip hop sensibilities, Nelly has taken the reigns as the residing voice, blending smooth Southern cadence and Midwestern inflection that ride easy over beats and infectious hooks. It's 2008 and with 35 million records sold, Nelly is one of the industry's top recording artists. Yet, he remains the voice of the tough town with heart. It's high time for Nelly to show and prove once again with his fifth studio album titled Brass Knuckles.
His track record is irrefutable -- there's the platinum-selling remix album Da Derrty Versions (The Reinvention) in 2003 and another Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group with "Shake Ya Tailfeather" a collaboration with Murphy Lee and P Diddy. Even in a more fickle market, he's still managed to score platinum on not one, but two albums Sweat and Suit released simultaneously in 2004. On Suit he challenged the formula for a hit record collaborating with country music icon Tim McGraw on the number one "Over & Over." This unique approach elevated him to four number one hits -- the most by a male artist in the Top 40 charts.
While Nelly was destined for solo stardom, he's a resolute team player who builds off those who've been there for the journey. He introduced the world to his group the St Lunatics including Ali, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan and Slo Down with the platinum album Free City in 2001. This released propelled solo careers, including Murphy Lee's platinum album Murphy's Law, released on Derrty Entertainment, Nelly's joint venture with Universal Records. The label is one of Nelly's business ventures.
Nelly remains an artist to the core, albeit one with an uncanny business savvy. His clothing lines for men and women Vokal and Apple Bottoms are sold in major department stores and his beverage, Pimp Juice (inspired by a hit song under the same name) has sold millions of units and been recognized by beverage industry as the "People's Choice" for best energy drink. He is a part owner of the NBA expansion team, the Charlotte Bobcats.
The sporting world is a natural fit for Nelly, who was a serious shortstop slugger for his suburban University City high school team, scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves before music called. He came full circle to the field performing at Super Bowl XXXV and XXXVIII in 2001 and 2004. Most recently he opened Skybox, a St. Louis sports bar and grill and is putting together a multi-million dollar athletic facility.
Nelly, who is still an active athlete, relied on his training to ready himself for his major film debut in the "Longest Yard" starring alongside Burt Reynolds, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. The film showed yet another talented side of Nelly, who held his own with the box-office stars.
Many artists lose themselves in the glare of stardom, but Nelly has remained true. Perhaps, that has to do with his roots in St. Louis - and the people who've been there for him.To date, nine lives have been saved by the foundations efforts to match donors.With so many ventures under his belt, how does Nelly find time for music? It's easy when you've got something to say and audience hungry to listen. Take a closer look at Nelly -- this summer the heat is still rising off the Mississippi.
Grammy award-winning artist Nelly breaks four years of silence with straight hand-to-mic combat on his fifth studio album Brass Knuckles.
The St. Louis rapper has sold 30 million albums to date -- and he's approaching his upcoming release with renewed intensity. "When you're the champion you have to psyche yourself into thinking you're the underdog, even if people don't see you as that," Nelly confesses. "Nobody going to give you anything, you got to work hard for what you want. You got to continue to press."
Nelly makes his statement in the form of brass-tacks vocal tracks, dance floor anthems and suggestive, seductive slow jams. A master at dynamic collaborations, he's assembled a cast of all-stars to collaborate including Usher, Pharrell, Akon, Ciara, Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, Jermaine Dupri, Ashanti, Avery Storm and the St. Lunatics. "When you hear the energy change, or the tempo switches to a nice flow, it means something," he says. Nelly shows his versatility spitting rhymes with deep, percussive flow, and then switching it up to sing over soulful hooks.
Party People: The first single, "Party People," pairs him with Fergie. It's a raucous attention getter, laying the foundation for what's to come - the party is in full swing. "People wonder why I keep the clubs jamming. You can't make a club song if you don't go to the clubs. People always think I'm going out partying, but what I'm doing is seeing what the DJ is spinning. I want to hear and see what's the next thing."
Let It Go: Nelly gets dirty, Derrty style, with Pharrell on vocals over the Neptunes' crackly beats.
Self Esteem: The vibe changes with "Self Esteem," a fluid, inspirational track featuring Chuck D about: staying true in the face of struggle, such as a soldier serving in an unjust war. "There are so many obstacles in life to overcome and as soon as you jump over one, there come another one. But we got to be strong and stay strong."
"My all time favorite collaboration is with Chuck D. I heard the track and did the song and I felt something was missing." Public Enemy's "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" ran through his head. "Before Chuck even heard the song, he was like, I'll do it. That felt so good to me, that he trusted me. He knew that I wouldn't bring him no mess. That's Public Enemy, that's our CNN of hip hop."
Long Night: Nelly smoothes it out with Usher on "Long Night" -- an intricate musical cut, stacked with thick harmonies. "Sometimes you do songs with R &B artists and you do your verse, and they sing the hook but this one wasn't like that. This one, we're into the song."
Stepped on My J'z: The signature Nelly song featuring Jermaine Dupri and Ciara pays ode to the classic Jordan sneakers. "Shoes are a part of the hip-hop culture. I love my J's. I grew up in that era. I'm part of the reason why Jordan's don't come out on the weekday no more. I used to cut school to get a pair of the new joints"
The time away from the spotlight has been wrought with life lessons for Nelly, balancing the personal and the public, with the loss of his sister Jackie in 2005 after a long struggle with leukemia. "That's the biggest thing to ever happen in my life. That was my heart. Everybody deals with pain differently. I am not one that's going to sit in the room and sulk. No one can harm me worse than I can harm myself. It put me in a different place, but it put me in a better place. I see what is now. It's really simple. It's your family. It's your kids. It's the charitable work that you do. It's keeping it real with yourself."
While some would've thrown in the towel, Nelly never strayed far from the studio and he continued to grow his business ventures -- the Apple Bottom brand, Skybox a new St. Louis Sports Bar and part ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats -- and philanthropic work through his charities 4 Sho 4 Kids and Jes Us 4 Jackie.
Nelly is a man about: his business. An award-winning artist who's up for the challenge, primed for battle .....here we go, round five with Brass Knuckles - ding ding.