Nelly : Nellyville

He's got another multi-platinum album in the making...

A persecution complex can often be put to good use. Now that Nelly has had eight million satisfied customers for his 'Country Grammar' debut - and has reaped the usual benefits of envy, jealousy, spite, money, and the attentions of the opposite sex - he makes his new-found hang-ups work for him on the follow-up.

It can't have helped that Cornell Haynes Jr. (his given name) started out as a self-procalimed 'country boy' out to put St Louis, Missouri on the hip-hop map with his St Lunatics crew. Why, artists at major hip-hop centres like New York City and Los Angeles would virtually have queued up to look down on you as backward.

So here's Nelly's reply to the haters. A glossy, well-produced album of populist anthems with a gangsta undertow, that expands his worldview and celebrates success. 'Nellyville' is split between club tunes, aids to seduction, and the occasional grimy workout, to show he hasn't forgotten his old neighbourhood. And the mid-tempo funk is thick as molassess, with his identifiable melodic sign-song verbals and a kind of hip-hop gumbo, that mixes up Southern USA 'bounce' styles and Northern dynamics with elements of rock and pop.

The Neptunes-produced 'Hot In Herre' single should already be familiar; and 'CG2' remains a pointed continuation of 'Country Grammar', with the St Lunatics crew in tow. But is anyone ready for 'Pimp Juice', in which Nelly forgoes rapping altogether and emotes away like a '70s Curtis Mayfield gone horribly wrong? It's great. As is the way 'Splurge' balances the pressures of fame with threats of gunplay. Furthermore, when Nelly steps up to KRS-One explicitly on 'ROC - The Remix' with members of Jay-Z's clique, and implicitly on 'No. 1', well, he's obviously taking the braggadocio element of hip-hop seriously.

Sadly, he might need a history lesson, especially in light of 'Work It''s silly pop-directed collaboration with Justin Timberlake of N'Sync. Ancient Queensbridge rapper MC Shan dissed KRS many moons ago - and later killed his hardcore rap career by duetting with Snow. Times have indeed changed, but does the Nelly of 'Say Now' (a big production number, complete with cinematic ghetto drama and Lyrnrd Skynrd guitar solos) want to go the same route? Chances are it's all elementary, anyways. He's got another multi-platinum album in the making.

Dele Fadele
7 / 10

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