Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
For this week’s installment of Blow The Whistle, we move east. And here we find mediocre Midwest rapper Cornell Haynes Jr.,better known as Nelly.
He had hits. I’m talking, HITS. Multi-platinum albums, energy drink endorsements, television shows, Grammy wins, two clothing lines, and technically the fourth best selling rap artist in American music history. Outstanding! So why is he on this list? He has to have some type of major following, right?
Listen, I know a lot of people, but I have yet to find a friend of mine with a Nelly download, bootleg or actual CD. His music is like crack, the shit is getting sold but nobody knows who’s buying it. And I won’t dare say he’s wack. But mediocre?
Nelly debuted in 2000. A brand new dude from a town not yet really discovered by the rap landscape. He had plenty of style, a million dollar smile, and a stupid Band-Aid. In Hollywood, that’s called “style,” In the rap world, that’s known as “swag.” Nonetheless he threw the world for a loop with “Country Grammar,” a slick, sing-songy tune that had many comparing him to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony at the time. However, this tune was full of pistol play, drug talk, and an ironic shout out to fellow Blow The Whistle alumni Too $hort.
“I’m born to mack like Todd Shaw.”
The stage was set. He was brand new and had the world itching to see if he was a fluke or the truth. He struck right back with “E.I.” Now, I don’t know how old you are, but I bet you spent a night or two in a sweaty club yelling this hook, grinding on an unmentionable.
“Andale, Andale, mami, E I, E I, uhhh ohhhh… What’s poppin tonight?”
Now, quick, someone tell me an actual lyric from this joint.
I’ll wait. But I digress.
The hits continued into the second album, where Nelly introduced Nellyville, which included the bona-fide classic “Hot in Herre.” Neptune production, old school rhythm (courtesty of Chuck Brown), catchy hook, and it was officially official. Nelly was on a wave.
“I thank my butt getting big” became some off-the-wall slogan randomly muttered by chicks in a variety of situations seemingly for no reason at all. That’s what you call “star power.”
Striking back with follow up singles, “Dilemma” and “Air Force Ones,” Nelly was winning.
But this same album also contained the downslide. The beginning of the end, so to speak.
And if you guys fucked with this tune, we are probably not friends.
This. Shit. Is. Abso. Lutely. Horrible. The true sign of an artist feeling himself is their notion to throw anything to the public because, “Hey, they’re fuckin with me anyway.” This is the proof. Funny thing, though. This joint was almost as popular as his other ones. Anybody see a trend herrr? Nelly, with his cluttered, almost whismical rise to the top of the rap world keeps handing us mediocre songs, wrapped in syrupy sweet lullabye tunes, and like the mindless drools artists think the fans are anyway, we kept tossing hard-hustled dollars at his golden Air Force 1’s and continued to dance the night away.
During this time he also decided to introduce his
weed carriers homeboys, The St. Lunatics, which included Murphy Lee, Ali, some other guy, and another dude who wore customized hockey masks and danced. Whoever that guy is, he was the equivalent of Crunchy Black to Three-Six Mafia.
With beef being unavoidable in Hip Hop, Nelly found his way into a skirmish with KRS-One. Of course Nelly got more play because of his popularity and the media’s affinity for embracing the new while screaming “Fuck The Old!” They’d have you thinking that Nelly SLAYED KRS-One in a battle…
The cracks were showing and the legacy of Cornell continues.
He followed up with a third album, a double album, titled Sweat and Suit, respectively. Sweat contained such shitty singles as “Flap Your Wings,” “Tilt Ya Head Back,” and “Na-Nana-Na,” and Suit contained the singles, “My Place” and “Over and Over,” which featured Country Music superstar Tim McGraw.
I don’t know any of these songs. I may have probably heard “Over and Over” somewhere and that shit moved me, in no other way, than to persuade whoever is playing it…to turn it off.
The double album was followed up with 2008’s release of Brass Knuckles. This album featured singles, I would bet dollars to donuts, that no one remembers.
“Wadsyaname”, “Party People” “Stepped on My J’z?” Anybody?
Musically, the downward spiral continued, but Nelly’s career has continued to see more brighter days than dark ones due to his marketing appeal. Nelly’s business sense outweighed and subsequently outlasted his “talent,” and unlike plenty of his contemporaries, he struck while the iron was hot. While many get stuck in the infinite vacuum of being a Hip Hop celebrity, Nelly, regardless of the metric tons of so-so songs he’s delivered to us, saw his potential and pimped it all the way to the bank. That’s why he’s on TV right now while our favorite rapper is M.I.A.
Nelly has a permanent position on Kevin Hart’s “Real House Husbands of Hollywood,” his own reality show, “Nellyville,” and is still achieving radio success with , new age country duo, Florida- Georgia Line with “Cruise”.
From his on again-off again relationship with Ashanti, to his friendship with TI, to his role on Kevin Hart’s show, Nelly has found a way to remain relevant. Let’s not forget, though, that he is also responsible for such musical atrocities as Chingy and J-Kwon. Maybe not totally his fault, but there is no way they would exist if there was no Nelly. So therefore, a legacy is legitimized. Ugh.
Hip Hop history, in all its ratcheted glory, will not let you forget Nelly. So, you might as well drop down and get your eagle on, grab yourself a pimp juice, eat a bowl of Cheerios, and take off all your clothes due to the temperature. Nelly is a real, relevant, remaining factor in rap music. Dare we call him a legend. And he’s mediocre as hell.