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That Grape Juice caught up with Hip-Pop heavyweight Nelly last week. Currently readying his 5th studio album, ‘Nelly 5.0’, for release this November, the rapper was eager to let us know what we can expect on highly anticipated record.
As usual we asked the questions that you really want answers about. Nelly addressed that status of his relationship with Ashanti, the under-performance of his last LP ‘Brass Knuckles’, his new collaboration with Kelly Rowland, his views about women in Hip-Hop and much more. Check out all the action below. Enjoy!
Interviewer: Trent // Edited by: Sam
Nelly Shouts Out That Grape Juice
Yo man, what’s up?
I’m great! How are you?
I’m doing great.
It’s been two years since you the release of your last album. What have you been up to in your time away from the limelight?
Basically just working on this new project and trying to get everything to where we feel it needs to be; trying to get back on track.
Your 5th album, aptly titled ‘Nelly 5.0’, is set for release this November. What kind of sound were you going for with this album?
I would say this album is more melodic than the last album and kind of along the lines of the ‘Suit’ album with a 2010 feel but definitely with more energy and more aggressiveness in a more melodic way.
Which producers and artists did you collaborate with on this record?
Some of the producers I collaborated with on this album are Polow Da Don, on a joint that features me, Plies and a little bit of Chris Brown, and Dr. Luke on a record that features me, T-Pain and Akon. I also did a collaboration with T.I. on a joint that he produced. I also did the The-Dream record which was produced by Jim Jonsin (which is amazing) and I also did work with Kelly Rowland on a joint that was also produced by Jim Jonsin. So it’s a little bit of this, little bit of that.
Speaking of that song with Kelly Rowland – ‘Gone (Dilemma Part 2)’ – will that be included on your album or on hers?
Right now I know it’s on my album. I don’t know yet if it will be on hers but it’s on my album.
A lot of her fans are itching for that to be a single. Is it being considered to be a single or is it just going to be an album cut?
You never know.
(Laughs) Ok, so your last album, ‘Brass Knuckles’, somewhat underperformed in comparison to your previous efforts. Why do you think that happened?
I don’t know. Things happen for a reason. I think being gone for so long between albums – for about 4 years – and with the way music is changing drastically, I think sometimes you have to remind people of what it is that you do.
Kids nowadays, their intentions spans are so short; it’s not like when I first came out and we would have ‘songs of the summer’ and a song that lasted all summer long. Now it’s like ‘song of the week’ or ‘song of the month’ and you move on to the next joint. Now it’s just a little different and I think that at that time it was just one of those albums that got lost in the transition but it’s a career; it’s not like some people are look at it like “it’s over”. Out of 5 albums that dropped I only had one that didn’t sell over 4 million (giggles); every other record I did sold 4 million plus.
I think it’s just one of those things where when you succeed so much people almost want to see not succeed on a high level or they expect you to; they stop looking at it as an accomplishment and start looking at it as a requirement.
That said, what are your goals for ‘Nelly 5.0’ from a sales-standpoint?
Well I think what influenced it is that aspect. I think anytime you have people counting you out it kind of fuels the fire. When I first came out people doubted me. You had this country kid from St. Louis with this new sound and this new place and people just assumed that it wasn’t going to work and it was “nursery rhymes” and it was “nursery rap”.
I think what works for me better is when people don’t see me coming. I think I’m almost in that same boat except to say that they already understand what it is that I do and understand that it’s on and popping right now! They ain’t got to worry about it (giggles).
Many are speculating that your new single ‘Just a Dream’, which is becoming a very big radio hit, is actually about Ashanti. Is there any truth to this?
No it’s not about Ashanti. It’s just a song that I and my man Rico love came up with. It’s a song that just relatable on all levels – rich, poor, black, white, child, adult – whatever level it is. If [thinking it’s about Ashanti] is what helps people to go out and support it then so be it (giggles).
Well speaking of Ashanti, you were both photographed holding hands at T.I. and Tiny’s wedding. Is it safe to say that you’re a couple as of right now?
No it’s safe to say that we’re two friends that went to support our friends. We’re both friends of T.I and Tiny and we went down there to support them. Right now it’s safe to say that I’m a couple with my ‘5.0’ album (laughs); the person I’m dating right now is a girl by the name of ‘5.0’ and we’re planning to get married on November 16th so I’m inviting everybody to that wedding (laughs).
You have always been one of the few rappers to enjoy a lot of success both on the Urban & mainstream formats. What do you think is the formula for crossover success?
You never know. If you knew the exact formula then everyone would do it or everyone would try it or be able to expand on it. It’s just 1 of those things that you just continuously work at it and hopefully the things that you do will prosper. Everybody’s path is different; my path is different from 50 Cent’s path, my path is different from Eminem’s path; Jay-Z’s path is different from Young Jeezy’s path and from T.I.’s path. Everybody as their own path so there’s no particular formula. The only thing I could say is that the ingredient that is in every formula is determination so you definitely have to have that.
Many people compare Flo Rida’s commercial appeal and even in some way his look to yours. Do you see any such similarities between the two of you?
No…Well I mean we both rap melodically but I think it’s one of those things where I think if you have success, it’s only right that somebody’s going to be influenced by it. That’s not a bad thing. Flo Rida is a cool dude; I’m cool with dude and I don’t have any ill will towards him or anything like that so it is what it is. I think there’s enough room for everybody.
Would you be open to collaborating with Flo Rida in the future?
Who knows? You never know. I’m not against it. I think if the right joint comes along and we get to a point then who knows?
Let’s take a flashback a little bit here. You were a prominent voice on the ‘BET’s Hip-Hop vs. America’ programme & since that show aired the sexual imagery on the station has drastically declined. Do you think that the era of the video vixen is gone forever or is it just on pause?
To say that it’s gone is to say that the oldest profession that ever existed is done with. Sex sells. No matter if you got it in the same store or not there is somewhere you can buy it from.
I think that the way the Internet is allowing itself it’s only a matter of time. You could go to sites like WorldStarHipHop, and things of that nature, and they still show some of those videos. So I just think at that time BET was going in a new direction and it’s a different way that they wanted to go so they chose to do that but you’re never going to get rid of sex – never.
Speaking of BET, the network recently aired a special about the place of women in the Hip-Hop industry. Would you agree that it is more difficult for women to succeed in Hip-Hop than men?
Well I think it is but that’s only because of women. When you look at who buys the most records and who supports music they are women so if women aren’t selling any records then that’s because women aren’t supporting women. I don’t think that it has to do with anything other than that because women have proven to be just as talent and just as innovative.
I’m a huge Missy Elliot fan and I think she’s 1 of the most creative persons to ever do it, period, on any level. That’s 1 of the artists where I can’t understand why she doesn’t sell more than 2 million copies every time she comes out (giggles) because I know creatively she’s going to give you something that maybe you haven’t heard before and that’s what I look for but that’s just my opinion. I only represent 1 or 2 records not millions.
One woman that has achieved great success in the rap game is Lauryn Hill. Do you think that it is possible for her to have a comeback?
O man! True artists are only 1 hit away and I always say that. True artists are only 1 hit away. That being said, which artist do you know who’s truer than Lauryn Hill (giggles)? She is the blueprint when it comes to female cooperation. When I say cooperation I mean being a Hip-Hop star and an R&B star all in one. When you mix that up and you have that cooperation on both sides there is nobody bigger than Lauryn Hill. For her to have a comeback that’s easy; she’s 1 hit away from being what she was when she left.
It’s kind of like the ‘Mariah Carey syndrome’ when you have a true artist like that. People had written Mariah off; threw sand on her; threw dirt on her basically. When you look at what she did with 1 song and people are like “oh yeah she’s Mariah!” but o yeah she’s always been Mariah (laughs)! It’s kind of funny because I guess I’m finding that same kind of scenario now with myself. Again, when you’re a true artist and you’re an originator you’re always just 1 hit away from re-establishing or even becoming even bigger than you were.
Now we can’t talk about women in Hip-Hop and forget to mention Nicki Minaj who is currently killing the game. What do you think about her skill as a rapper?
I think Nicki is very talented. Again, it’s going to be up to women to support Nicki. That’s the thing – men are going to support who they want to support but I think women have to stand up and make their voice heard like “yo we’re gonna support this sister; we’re gonna show that we’re gonna be behind a women movement when it comes to the music”. If that happens I don’t see anyone as good as Nicki.
She’s very talented, she’s every energetic, she’s very creative with the delivery and the things that she does and I think that’s what makes a star – the creativity. It’s being able to sell every aspect of a song; not just what they hear but visually and emotionally being able to do that. I think she comes across very, very well.
That’s our time. Thank you very much for your time Nelly! It was a great speaking with you. We’re looking forward for the album and we’d definitely like to see what you have to serve up this time around.
Thank you brother! I appreciate that man. Thank you very much!