Nelly Brings His Cool Factor To Cheerios Ads, Steps Back Into The Mainstream With New Album

Tell me about your new album that’s coming out.
The album is pretty dope. It’s called M.O. The single we just released with Nicki Minaj and my man Pharrell—actually Pharrell did about four tracks—I worked with a producer by the name of Detail who produced two or three tracks on there, Rico Love produced the Florida-Georgia Line track for my album which is pretty dope. I got the first ever Nelly and Nelly Furtado collaboration. It’s a Nelly album, you know what I’m saying? It might not be the Nelly album that people…People always get a feel of how they want their artist to be. They want their artist to stay in a time. You want Michael Jackson to keep making Thriller. [Laughs] How the hell could he make Thriller again? People don’t understand, music—it’s not a blueprint, it’s an art. It’s a feeling. It’s a little bit different, and that’s what makes those albums special, because of when they were. It’s almost like asking you to be the same way you were 14 years ago. [Laughs] Why don’t you dress the same way you did 14 years ago? Are you kidding me? [Laughs]

Is it tough to keep pushing forward while everybody keeps talking about Country Grammar?
It’s tough when they don’t allow you, when people are unfair about it and they hold you to a standard of it that they don’t even hold themselves. It’s not really fair. Because again, it’s like asking you why don’t you do what you did 20 years ago, or 15 years ago. It’s like, do you know the state of mind I was in? Somebody said, you get your whole life to make your first album, you only get a year to make the second. In that aspect, I would love for Jay Z to make another Blueprint. I would love him to make another Reasonable Doubt. How can he do that? But then if he did do that, wouldn’t it take away from Reasonable Doubt being Reasonable Doubt? Wouldn’t it take away from The Blueprint being The Blueprint? Those moments are etched in time for all of us.

I think what people are forgetting, as dope an album as Country Grammar was, it was a lot of what went into the album that came into play. I can’t be from St. Louis again. I can’t re-introduce myself again. You already know who I am! [Laughs] You can’t go back to high school or to middle school when that shit came out and get that feeling again. There’s no fuckin’ way.

But in naming the album M.O. you’re sort of bringing it back to that Missouri thing again.
Well not bringing it back, but Mo, a lot of friends and family call me Mo for short. So it’s just about me being me at all times and representing where I’m from at all times. I’m not re-introducing St. Louis—Country Grammar introduced St. Louis to the world. I’m not introducing St. Louis to the world anymore, I’m just representing where I’m from. So it’s a little different.

What was it like working with Pharrell?
Working with Pharrell is always great, I’ve worked with him on every album except for Country Grammar, everything from “Hot In Herre,” “Flap Your Wings,” did a bunch of other joints with him too as well. Pharrell is a huge part of Nelly, definitely. He’s doing his thing right now—that’s what super producers do. When you have a real ear for music, and you’re not just making beats, and your beats are not in the moment, but they’re great beats—I shouldn’t even call them beats, when he’s making instrumentals it’s a little different. You have a lot of beat-makers, and then you have producers. He’s a real producer. He gets the vibe, he understands music. And that’s what’s wrong with a lot of, not just producers, but artists today. They don’t understand the history of music. They don’t have a history of music. They have a history of rap, but they don’t have a history of music. If they’re not implementing music into what it is what they’re doing, that’s why a lot of it sounds the same.

What’s life like now as opposed to when Country Grammar came out?
It just is what it is—it’s not anything that you’re not comfortable with, it just is what it is. You pretty much get used to it, but you definitely appreciate it, because you know that it don’t have to be. This don’t have to be, it could leave any day, so you gotta make sure that you’re pretty cool with that.

What happened with that pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals game?
He called a pitch-out, you didn’t see that? You guys are killin’ me here. I played baseball, don’t mean I was a pitcher! [Laughs] It’s not like they gave me warmups or anything, they just put me on the mound—I haven’t stepped on a mound in like 20 years. [Laughs]

So you feel like they should’ve let you get a bullpen session in first?
I mean, the least they coulda done was gave a brother a couple of tosses, you know what I’m saying? They put me out on the mound and told me to go for it.