After a three-year hiatus since 5.0, Nelly is returning with a major album that could potentially have him on another wild run in music. On September 30, the hip-hop veteran is dropping his seventh studio album M.O. The features are packed with old and new collaborators such as Future, T.I., 2 Chainz, Trey Songz, Fabolous, Wiz Khalifa, Nelly Furtado, Yo Gotti, UK singer Daley and country duo Florida Georgia Line.
XXL was invited to hear M.O. at a private listening session held at Jungle City Studios in NYC. The “Country Grammar” rapper went through 10 selections, giving us a little background for each song before. “Get Like Me,” (Nicki Minaj and Pharrell) “100K” (2 Chainz) and “IDGAF” (T.I. and Pharrell) ventured into familiar sonic territory, but Nelly saved his best tracks for last.
One track in particular received such a round of applause—the only song that did; it wasn’t really the applause-type of event—that it was played a second time…receiving another round of applause at the end. That track, another Pharrell-produced, T.I.-assisted joint, is called “Rick James,” and it bumps with the type of funky intensity that even got Kevin Liles up and dancing. The beat catches Pharrell somewhere in between straight 1980s booty funk and post-Daft Punk synth grooves, with the phrase, “I’m rich bitch!” a fun calling card. If “Get Like Me” is Pharrell kicking it back to the mid-2000s Neptunes sound, “Rick James” fasts forward and rewinds a decade in each direction at the same time, creating a sound that borrows from each era but belongs to neither.
On “Walk Away,” Nelly recruits Florida Georgia Line, with whom he had a record-setting No. 1 hit on the Country charts earlier this year with “Cruise.” The foray into country music is nothing new for Nelly, who first had a huge hit in 2004 with the Tim McGraw-featuring “Over And Over.” “I never wanted to be the best rapper, I wanted to be the biggest,” Nelly told those assembled in the studio. “I’ve had hits on the rap, R&B, country and pop charts. Name someone else who’s done that.” The song won’t bore its intended audience, and may even win over a few that are on the fence.
Nelly’s a versatile artist and taking risks comes from his 10-plus years experience in the rap game. Another highlight of M.O. is “Headphones” that reunites him with Nelly Furtado (“Luven Me” anyone?). The track steers away from the cliché love-hate relationship song. Instead, the two superstars deliver pure audio crack with an inspirational anthem that show good signs to tear the clubs up. If that wasn’t enough, he delivers the same feel on “Give U Dat,” which has hook killer Future doing what he does best.
Behind his guest appearances are producers who contributed to building M.O.’s variety. Nelly spoke highly about up-and-coming artist Detail, who produced three records on his album. “Sometimes the packaging is not what you’re used to, but the talent is undeniable,” he says about Detail’s style. He also says the YMCMB signee is a “special person,” meaning their chemistry clicked right away once they got to work.
1. Get Like Me ft. Nicki Minaj & Pharrell (Produced By Pharrell Williams)
2. Give U Dat ft. Future (Produced By Detail)
3. Rick James ft. T.I. (Produced By Pharrell Williams)
4. Heaven ft. Daley (Produced By Detail)
5. Maryland, Massachusetts
6. 100K ft. 2 Chainz (Produced By Detail)
7. All Around the World ft. Trey Songz (Produced By J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League)
8. IDGAF ft. Pharrell & T.I. (Produced By Pharrell Williams)
9. U know U Want To
10. My Chick Better ft. Fabolous & Wiz Khalifa
11. Walk Away ft. Florida Georgia Line (Produced By Rico Love)
12. Headphones ft. Nelly Furtado (Produced By Soul Unique)
13. Ciroc & Simply Lemonade ft. Yo Gotti
14. Hey Porsche
15. Shake Whatever
16. Mo’s Focused