St. Louis rapper Nelly knows all too well about not getting respect in the music industry. Before signing to Universal Records in the late nineties, Nelly was rejected from every label you can think of in the business. Even Jay-Z and Dame Dash passed on Nelly after they heard his debut smash single “Country Grammar.”
Since selling 8.5 million copies of his debut album, Nelly’s career has experienced highs and lows. His sophomore project, Nellyville, sold more than 1o million copies worldwide and garnered plenty of awards between 2002 and 2003 including a Grammy Award for Best Male Rap Solo Performance for “Hot In Herre.”
His reign didn’t last as long as he wanted because by 2005, Nelly had run out of hits and was written off as a has been by critics and some fair weather fans alike. XXL Magazine had this to say about his 2008 Brass Knuckles LP, “Problem is, for most of the LP, Nelly Nel rarely displays any real creative license and takes few risks. Yes, Mr. Country Grammar has been known to harmonize on occasion, but his off-key singing on One and Only makes for an intolerable listen.” He didn’t recover from that dark time in his career until he returned in 2009 with a Top 5 single “Just A Dream” which was featured on the Top 10 album 5.0.
With Nelly currently finishing up his seventh album entitled M.O., he took some time to speak with The Urban Daily about hip-hop’s generational gap, the impact of Nellyville, and what he is cooking up next.
TUD: It’s been ten years since Nellyville. What does it feel like now, looking back on it and listening to that project?
Nelly: It doesn’t seem like that long ago. But it was a good thing. It was Nellyville. I guess coming after Country Grammar and everybody thinking, “Well maybe, that was it.” To come back with something like Nellyville and to have people accept it and appreciate it the way they did, that was a great move.
Now are people still trying to get you for your pimp juice?
[Laughs] That’s my dad’s favorite joint, man!
Mine too. People in the office look at me crazy for still playing it.
I feel the same way with my pops. I’m like, “You know I got other songs on that album.”
TUD:What would Nelly, the man today, say to the Nelly who made Country Grammar and Nellyville?
I would tell him to be patient and enjoy a lot more of it. Take in those moments at those times when it does happen. I believe in you gotta make your mistakes in order to grow. So to look back, I wouldn’t change anything. I’m not one of them people to be like, “I’mma change everything.” You just gotta live with the choices that you make. People can’t fault you for that. But people fault you for making the same mistakes over.
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TUD: What do you think about the state that hip-Hop is in right now?
I don’t think it’s for me to say that. You get people who are like, “Oh, the state of Hip-Hop right now is bad. It’s this and it’s that.” The state of Hip-Hop right now is gonna be what the youth dictates for it to be. Hip-Hop was created for the youth, by the youth. But when that was said, that was when Hip-Hop was only for a certain generation because Hip-Hop had no older elders at that time. As Hip-Hop grows, you get 30, 40, 50 year-old Hip-Hop fans; and you got kids that are 22-23 and they been listening to Hip-Hop they whole life. Some people wanna act like they can control it. You can’t control it. You gotta let it grow like everything else. You gotta let it make its mistakes. I don’t know. I’d say it’s in a great spot. It’s the number one music on the planet.
TUD: Do you feel like older Hip-Hop fans are angry at younger fans for having the attitude like, “Alright, y’all had your time, let us get ours?”
I think sometimes older Hip-Hop fans are angry at the fact that they not capitalizing as much off of Hip-Hop as some of the younger people are doing, because our elders are the ones that gave us Hip-Hop. It’s almost like you inventing a hat, and the hat becomes so popular, some young kid comes in there and takes the same hat. Only difference is he puts a button on the back and for some reason, he’s selling 30 million of them and now you just kinda looking like, “Sheesh!”
I just think nowadays, Hip-Hop artists are capitalizing more off the success of Hip-Hop more so than our forefathers that came and laid the groundwork. I think that can be a little bit disturbing. But I also feel like elders feel the kids today aren’t showing that gratitude or that respect of saying, “Okay, we did lay this foundation and we did give you these opportunities.” They’re not showing the elders respect and their just due. It’s a tug of war.
TUD: Earlier, you spoke about being mature in Hip-Hop. As a father, what did you think about Nas’ song “Daughters?”
I think Nas’ song was great. He made that about his daughter. Those songs are what we call, “Hater-proof.” You know, you can’t hate on that. You look crazy hating on a song like that. You just look like a stone-cold hater. Those songs are great man. I love it.
TUD: So tell us about your new project. What’s the name and what’s the sound?
The new project is entitled M.O. Obviously it’s my seventh studio album. It’s slated for later on in the fall, probably early on in the winter. We just getting started with releasing some music from that, and one of the songs we just released was the one featuring myself and Chris Brown, called “Marry Go Round.” It’s a dope track, produced by Da Internz. That’s banging shit.
I’m real excited about it. I don’t wanna say this my best album to date, because I don’t think that’s for me to judge. I think my fans are gonna dictate that by receiving it and letting me know that they appreciate it. I work with a lot of great people. My man Detail, who I think is a phenomenal producer. Pharrell on this album. I also worked with Trey Songz on this album. And just a lot of different other people. We are about ready to wrap it up in another two weeks.
TUD: Do you have any surprise guests featured on the album?
We got a bunch of cool names in there. I’m waiting to get one more name on there in a different genre of music that people probably wouldn’t be expecting. I don’t wanna give that away, but obviously, when the album gets finished, we can talk again and I’ll let you know if I got it.
TUD: You’ve also done a lot of stuff with country artists. Are you a big fan of country music?
A huge fan of country music. People don’t understand country music and R&B are so similar. The stories and the passion are the same, but the sound may be different upon which it’s told and the tempo may be a little different. Look at someone like Lionel Richie, who comes, obviously from an urban background and he’s one of the biggest country songwriters of all time. That’s because that transition is so easy.
TUD: Would you ever do a full collaborative album with a country star like Lionel Richie has just did ?
I don’t know. I think if it made sense and if I feel like we had an album full of great songs that people needed to hear, then I would.
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