Global Multi-Genre Music Icon Nelly Talks With Hustle & Soul

Global Multi-Genre Music Icon Nelly came on the scene signing to Universal Records in 1999. Under Universal, Nelly began his solo career in the year 2000 with his debut album Country Grammar, which is Nelly’s best-selling Hip Hop album to date, selling over 8.4 million copies in the United States. His following album, Nellyville, produced the number-one hits “Hot in Herre” and “Dilemma” (featuring Kelly Rowland). Other singles included “Work It” (featuring Justin Timberlake), “Air Force Ones” (featuring Murphy Lee and St. Lunatics), “Pimp Juice”, and “#1”.

With over 20 years of mainstream success as an entertainer, Nelly has accomplished alot including becoming a Grammy Award-Winning artist, going platinum, going diamond, performing at the Superbowl, and being a cast member in tv and film to name a few iconic moments in the superstar’s career.

Hustle and Soul Magazine honors and pays tribute to the legend we know as Nelly who has broken records with a host of number one tracks on the charts and for being an innovator by crossing over to numerous music genres and doing it with passion, purpose, and creativity that empowers and inspires so many. He is slated to drop his new album “Heartland” in August 2021. Hustle and Soul Magazine got an exclusive interview with Nelly.

Tammy: Your highly anticipated new album “Heartland” is expected to drop in August which is a country-inspired album. What can your loyal and growing fan base brace themselves for?

Nelly: I’m very thankful and appreciative of my loyal fan base. It’s because of them I’m allowed to be what I like to call musically free. I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of the few music artists to have had top songs across all genres of music even though Hip Hop is who I am, what I love, and is how I’ve started. My fans have supported me through number one songs in Hip Hop, in R&B, in Pop, on Top 40, and in Country.

I love to do different things. I am a firm believer in creating new lanes and new energy. That helps you stand the test of time. It keeps you on a level where other people are trying to be involved as opposed to being creative. I love being creative and that is what my fans have allowed me to do.

With Heartland, this project is on the Country music side, it’s not a country album, but it is Country-influenced. It’s my appreciation to the Country music world for allowing Nelly to take part in it and be invited to the dinner or the barbeque. I don’t live a country life which is why I don’t call it a country album. I am however a country boy. I was raised in the Heartland. I was born in Texas so I can’t escape being a country boy period.

When I first did country music in 2004 with Tim McGraw the label looked at me like I had lost my mind when I told them that I wanted to do it. I heard a bunch of rumbles in the office that I was trying to ruin my career. This was coming off the pinnacle of my career and the Nellyville album. I always knew that the music would speak louder than opinions. Because I think music can change opinions, I don’t think opinions can change the music. When you can hear the music you can think to yourself, hey, that wasn’t that bad or maybe I should take another listen to dig a little deeper.

You would be surprised at how many people have said to me that they didn’t really listen to country music until they heard “Over and Over” and began to listen to more Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line, or Kane Brown. I am so excited about this project. It’s something that I have had on my mind for about almost 15 years. I finally got someone to believe in the project as far as doing it with my label.

I have a lot of good people on the album from the country world. I’ve got Blanco Brown and Breland who are two talented brothers who are doing their thing. Kane Brown is on here. I got the O.G. Darius Rucker on here too. I call the songs a bunch of country club bangers. Also, The first song “Lil Bit” featuring FGL went Platinum.

Tammy: Congratulations! How does that feel?

Nelly: Thank you! 22 years later and still being successful and still getting platinum records feels great, amazing, and awesome!

Tammy: You are such a role model especially during our current climate when people need to be open-minded and understand that you can work across the table for a greater purpose.

Nelly: Oh yes! You have to and I think the majority of people get that. The ones that don’t want it are just speaking a lot louder now because they can see it happening. When you see something that you don’t want happening you start to get louder and louder but you can’t stop it because evolution is inevitable. 

The cool thing now is to be diverse. The cool table at the school is not one group of kids anymore, it’s all shades. If you’re at school and you only hang with one certain type of group that’s not really the cool crowd. The cool crowd is going to be diverse, multicultural, open-minded, and share their views and try to understand each other and give each other respect.

Tammy: What about the track “High Horse”, please tell us about that?

Nelly: “High Horse” is non-stop energy and is the second single off of the project featuring Blanco Brown and Breland. We’re about to shoot the music video for it soon so I can’t wait for that. I have to give the credit to Blanco and Breland out the gate because when we first did the song of course I thought it was dope, but I didn’t know it was this dope. Blanco and Breland knew that we had something special out the gate. It took me about 26 hours later to realize it. Blanco and Breland are so talented and I can’t wait to create with them again.

Tammy: Congratulations on celebrating 20 years of your diamond-certified first album, Country Grammar! What was that time like for you?

Nelly: The thing about Country Grammar is that it all happened so fast because it was our first album and we didn’t know what to expect. When we dropped the album I was just hoping to go gold. I was hoping to make just enough money to buy a barbershop or maybe a liquor store. I was hoping I could just pay off my mom’s bills, or get her a nice used car. Also, spread some money out a little bit or send the kids to college. 

They gave us a gold plaque the first day the album came out because we had already gone gold because of the album pre-orders. Everywhere we went people were congratulating us. We knew we were doing something good, but we had no idea the type of magnitude of what was going on because we never did it before.

The first time a holy shit moment struck me was when I got a call that they wanted me to do the Superbowl. I was like what do they want me to do at the Superbowl? Hand out tickets? I couldn’t believe it. At the time MTV was executive producing the whole thing. Shout out to MTV and BET too because when Country Grammar debuted on 106 and Park it was the number one video. The BET and MTV family have been a huge part of the success of Nelly. I am very thankful. I had a lot of great people working on Country Grammar when it first came out and are part of the fact that it went diamond.

Tammy: You have your hands in numerous endeavors other than music. For those who may not know that you’re part-owner of the Charlotte Hornets with Michael Jordan please tell us what that has been like for you?

Nelly: I was there before Mike, let that be clear. (fun laughs)

Tammy: Yes! Let it be known! (fun laughs)

Nelly: Bob Johnson who had owned BET had just made the deal and sold BET and went to buy the Charlotte Bobcats which it was called at the time. Bob reached out to me and asked did I want to be involved. I was amazed that this was even happening. Here I am a sports fan, I always wanted to play sports, baseball in fact, or just to be a part of any sports. Now I am a part-owner. A few years later MJ came in and brought out everybody. I asked him why he didn’t buy me out because I was the lowest man on the totem pole. He told me he was going to keep me around because I’m funny. (fun laughs)

Being in business with Mike is a dream come true. The man is like a God to me. I remember skipping school to get his shoes, driving all the way up to Chicago because the shoes came out a week earlier up there as opposed to St. Louis. He helps me, he picks up the phone whenever I call. He answers questions no matter what it is and gives me alot of shit too. (fun laughs) He is just great and phenomenal!

Tammy: What else can we be on the lookout for from you? We heard a rumor about Real Husbands of Hollywood coming back, is that true?

Nelly: Yeah! We are definitely coming back. I want to send a shoutout to all the Real Husbands of Hollywood fans and a shoutout to my brothers Kevin, Nick, Boris, and J. B. Smoove. It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had on set and I am so happy to be getting back. It’s crazy! We’re very excited!

Keep up-to-date with Nelly by connecting on Instagram @nelly

Photos are provided

Tammy Reese

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