Nelly made naysayers eat their words in 2002. With his patty-cake beats and jump-rope melodies, with those jocky Band-Aids on his cheek and that Midwestern drawl and all the attention he got from high-school girls, St. Louis’ first rap star had a lot of people thinking that the eight million copies he sold of his 2000 debut, Country Grammar, was a fluke. A passing fad they called him. A one-hit wonder.
Two years later, though, he came back even bigger. Seemed like errtime you turned on the radio or TV, therr he was, talking about, it’s “hot in herre.” (And suggesting that we all might be more comfortable if we took off our clothes.) The hits didn’t stop: “Dilemma,” “Air Force Ones,” “Pimp Juice,” “#1.” The album Nellyville laughed in the face of the sophomore jinx, surpassing six million in sales, earning two Grammy Awards, and very definitively proving Nelly was here to stay. XXL hit the busy, busy derrty dude via e-mail to get his reminiscences.
After having such huge success with your first album, were you nervous about the sophomore curse going into your second one?
I wasn’t concentrating on curses or being jinxed. I was excited about working on my next album and going to the next level. It’s all about growth.
What was your favorite song from Nellyville?
I really wouldn’t say I have a favorite song. I have songs that fit different moods, so when I’m in a certain mood, that’s my favorite song for that mood I’m in.
Do you feel like you ran 2002?
I wasn’t really focused on running the year. I just felt like I had a great year and I accomplished the goal, which was to make a great album.
Were you excited to bring St. Louis to the forefront in rap?
Yeah, most definitely! That’s what Country Grammar was about. Nellyville was a way to show my versatility as an artist and to bring more personality to the album.
Nellyville was very different, in sound and style, from your first album. Were you scared that people wouldn’t take to it?
You can’t really focus on being nervous or afraid. You just have to give it your all and hope your fans will be as loyal as they were the first time around.
You have a rare ability to appeal to both the fellas and the ladies. Did you expect that?
Well, I always had young men tellin’ me that they like my style and askin’ about how to break into this industry. As far as the ladies, well, I think I’m good with the women.
XXL Staff Picks
Songs of the Year:
“Hot in Herre,” Nelly
“I Need a Girl (Part 1),” P. Diddy featuring Usher & Loon
“What’s Luv?,” Fat Joe featuring Ashanti
“Oh Boy,” Cam’ron featuring Juelz Santana
“Move Bitch,” Ludacris featuring Mystikal and I-20
“Still Fly,” Big Tymers
“Pass the Courvoisier, Pt. II,” Busta Rhymes featuring P. Diddy & Pharrell
“Welcome to Atlanta (Remix),” Jermaine Dupri featuring P. Diddy, Snoop Dogg & Murphy Lee
“Wanksta,” 50 Cent
Albums of the Year:
The Fix, Scarface
Lord Willin’, Clipse
Come Home With Me, Cam’ron
The Eminem Show, Eminem
Kings of Crunk, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz