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All Music Guide:
A savvy pop-rapper with crossover appeal, Nelly seemed like a novelty when he first debuted in 2000 with "Country Grammar (Hot...)," yet he was no one-hit wonder, consistently returning to the pop charts with smash hits like "Hot in Herre," "Grillz," and "Dilemma." His universality was partly rooted in his hometown -- the Gateway City, officially known as St. Louis, MO -- which set him apart from all of the prevailing rap styles of his time. He wasn't from the East or West Coast, nor was he from the South. Nelly's locale certainly informed his rapping style, which was both country and urban at the same time, as well as his dialect, which combined a Southern drawl with Midwestern twang. Plus, Nelly never shied away from a pop-rap approach, embracing a singalong vocal style that made his hooks catchier than most, thanks also in part to his standby producer, Jason "Jay E" Epperson. As a result, Nelly became a rapper capable of crossing practically all boundaries, from the Dirty South to MTV's Total Request Live and everything in between. His first hit, "Country Grammar (Hot...)," became a nationwide summer anthem in 2000, and many more smash hits followed during the remainder of the decade.
Born Cornell Haynes, Jr., on November 2, 1974, Nelly moved with his mother from downtown St. Louis to slightly more suburban University City as a teen. There, he chiefly attended to baseball and rap, forming the St. Lunatics with a group of his peers (including Big Lee, Kyjuan, Murphy Lee, and City Spud). The St. Lunatics enjoyed a regional hit in 1996 with the self-produced single "Gimmie What You Got," but no recording deal was forthcoming. Frustrated with failed attempts to land a recording deal as a group, the St. Lunatics collectively decided that Nelly would have a better chance as a solo act. The rest of the group could follow with solo albums of their own. The gamble paid off, and soon Nelly caught the attention of Universal, who signed him to a solo deal.
His debut album, Country Grammar (2000), featured contributions from the St. Lunatics as well as the Teamsters, Lil Wayne, and Cedric the Entertainer, and thanks to the widespread popularity of lead single "Country Grammar (Hot Shit)," Country Grammar debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 album chart, climbing to the top spot soon afterward. In addition to the Top Ten title track, Country Grammar spawned the hit singles "E.I.," "Ride wit Me," and "Batter Up." In the wake of Nelly's remarkable breakthrough success, he recorded a group album with the St. Lunatics, Free City (2001); released by Universal, the album charted Top Three and spawned a moderate hit, "Midwest Swing," which cracked the Billboard Hot 100 at number 88.
The following summer Nelly returned with his second album, Nellyville (2002), and lived up to his self-proclaimed billing as "#1" (i.e., the title of his 2001 hit from the Training Day soundtrack): Nellyville topped the Billboard album chart while the Neptunes-produced lead single, "Hot in Herre," remained atop the singles chart. In all, Nelly impressively held the number one spot on ten different Billboard charts the week of Nellyville's release, and he remained a chart presence as he released a string of follow-up singles: "Dilemma" (a chart-topper), "Air Force Ones" (a Top Three hit), "Work It" (featuring Justin Timberlake), and "Pimp Juice" (the source of some controversy).
Even after Nellyville ran its course commercially, Nelly's hit streak continued unabated, with "Iz U" (from his stopgap remix album Derrty Versions ) and "Shake Ya Tailfeather" (from the Bad Boys II  soundtrack) keeping him in the spotlight while he readied his separately released double-disc Sweatsuit (2004) project (following the lead of OutKast and R. Kelly, who had both recently released very successful two-disc sets). Sweat and Suit were led by a pair of red-hot singles -- "Flap Your Wings" (a club jam) and "My Place" (a slow jam) -- and debuted at the top two spots on the Billboard 200 album chart. Follow-up singles included "Tilt Ya Head Back" (featuring Christina Aguilera), "Over and Over" (Tim McGraw), "Na-Na-Na-Na" (Jazze Pha), and "N Dey Say." Sweat and Suit were later bundled as Sweatsuit (2005), along with the new song "Grillz," itself a number one hit. The time between its release and that of Brass Knuckles (2008) was the longest Nelly went between albums to date, though he did collaborate frequently (with Ashanti, R. Kelly, and T.I., to name only a few) during the downtime. The star-studded 5.0 (2010) featured the singles "Just a Dream" (produced by Jim Jonsin) and "Move That Body" (produced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin, featuring Akon and T-Pain).
Cornell Iral Haynes, Jr. (born November 2, 1974), better known by his stage name, Nelly, is an American Grammy Award-winning hip hop recording artist, entrepreneur and occasional actor from St. Louis, Missouri. He has performed with Southern hip hop group St. Lunatics since 1993 and signed to Universal Records in 1999. Under Universal, Nelly began his solo career in 2000 with his debut album Country Grammar, the title track of which was a top ten hit. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to peak at number one. Country Grammar is Nelly's best-selling 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 the same-day dual release Sweat and Suit (2004) and the compilation Sweatsuit (2006), Nelly continued to generate many chart-topping hits. Sweat debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 342,000 copies in its first week. On the same week of release, Suit debuted at number one, selling around 396,000 copies in its first week on the same chart. Nelly's fifth studio album, Brass Knuckles, was released on September 16, 2008, after several delays. It produced the singles "Party People" (featuring Fergie), "Stepped on My J'z" (featuring Jermaine Dupri and Ciara) and "Body on Me" (featuring Akon and Ashanti). In 2010, Nelly released the album 5.0. The lead single, "Just a Dream", has appeared in the top ten of several singles charts and were certified platinum in the United States. The second single is "Move That Body" (featuring T-Pain and Akon). "Gone" is the sequel to Nelly's 2002 worldwide number one single "Dilemma", also with Rowland, and serves as third single from Nelly's album.
He won Grammy Awards in 2003 and 2004 and had a supporting role in the 2005 remake film The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. He has two clothing lines, Vokal and Apple Bottoms. He has been referred to by Peter Shapiro as "one of the biggest stars of the new millennium", and the RIAA ranks Nelly as one of the best-selling male artists in American music history, with 21 million albums sold in the United States. On December 11, 2009, Billboard ranked Nelly the number three Top Artist of the Decade.
Life and career 
1974–00: Early life and career beginnings 
Nelly was born in Austin, Texas, where his father was serving in the military. When he was seven, his parents divorced. Nelly moved with his mother from inner city St. Louis to suburban University City, Missouri as a teenager. While still in high school, Nelly formed the St. Lunatics, who enjoyed local popularity with their single "Gimme What Ya Got". When a major record deal failed to appear, Nelly decided to go solo. He was signed to Universal Music Group by A&R Kevin Law. Law told HitQuarters that very few people at the record company liked Nelly when he was first signed, with the feedback he received from his colleagues on the rapper's music being "extraordinarily negative". Nelly was unusual for being a rapper from the Midwest at a time when the hip-hop scenes were centered around the East Coast, West Coast and the South. The label used this to their advantage by branding Nelly as a star of the Midwest, hoping to inspire pride in the people of St Louis and the surrounding region. Nelly was signed together with St. Lunatics. Kevin Law and Country from Fo'Reel Entertainment decided to do a solo record with Nelly first and then return to St. Lunatics the following year.
2000–03: Breakthrough with Country Grammar and Nellyville 
The label released his major label debut Country Grammar in 2000. The success of its title track as a single (#7 on the Hot 100 and #1 Hot Rap Tracks) led to the album debuting at number three in the Billboard 200 in the U.S. Other singles from the album included "E.I."; "Ride wit Me", featuring his brother City Spud; and "Batter Up", featuring the St. Lunatics. The album was certified 9× platinum by the RIAA on April 27, 2004.
In 2002, Nelly's second album Nellyville was released, debuting at #1 on Billboard's Top 200 Music Albums; its lead single "Hot in Herre" was a number-one hit. Other singles included "Dilemma" featuring Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, "Work It" featuring Justin Timberlake, "Air Force Ones" featuring Murphy Lee and the St. Lunatics, "Pimp Juice", and "#1". This album was highly successful and was certified 6x multi-platinum on June 27, 2003. "Hot in Herre" won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rap Solo Performance in 2003. In 2003 Nelly released Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention. It featured the hit single "Iz U" from the soundtrack to Walt Disney's The Haunted Mansion. The music video of a Tip Drill Remix became a source of controversy due to perceptions of misogynistic depictions of women. The controversy forced Nelly to cancel an appearance at a bone marrow drive at Spelman College, an historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia. Similar claims of misogyny also surrounded Nelly's single "Pimp Juice". RIAA have certified the album Platinum. For the Bad Boys II soundtrack album, Nelly contributed the single "Shake Ya Tailfeather" featuring Diddy and Murphy Lee. Another number-one hit, "Shake Ya Tailfeather" won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
2004–08: Continued success, Sweat, Suit and Brass Knuckles 
On September 14, 2004, Nelly released two albums, Sweat and Suit. Suit, an R&B-oriented album, debuted at number one on the Billboard albums chart, and Sweat, a rap-oriented album, debuted at number two. From Suit, the slow ballad "Over and Over", an unlikely duet with country music star Tim McGraw, became a crossover hit. On the 2004 NBC television concert special Tim McGraw: Here and Now, McGraw and Nelly performed the song. A feud with another St. Louis-based rapper, Chingy, came up near the end of the year. Tsunami Aid: A Concert for Hope, a 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake benefit concert special produced by NBC, featured Nelly. In the winter of 2005 came Sweatsuit, a compilation of tracks from Sweat and Suit with three new tracks. "Grillz", produced by Jermaine Dupri, was a number-one hit. To date both albums have sold over 5 million units in the United States.
Brass Knuckles was released on September 16, 2008, after several delays, Initial release dates for the album targeted October 16 and November 13. Its original lead single was "Wadsyaname", a ballad-oriented track produced by Ron "NEFF-U" Feemstar and sampling the piano riff from "All My Life" by K-Ci & JoJo. Nelly later confirmed that "Wadsyaname" was never going to be on Brass Knuckles. Nelly recorded "Party People", featuring Fergie and produced by Polow da Don, which turned out to be his first official single off the album. "Stepped On My J'z" was the next single, produced by Jermaine Dupri and featuring Dupri and Ciara; following that was "Body on Me", produced by Akon and featuring Akon and Ashanti. Nelly appeared on Rick Ross's third single, "Here I Am", which also featured label mate Avery Storm.
2009–10: Collaborations and 5.0 
In the summer of 2009, Nelly made a public announcement in Las Vegas about the yet-to-be-titled album. In October 2009, Nelly did an interview with SOHH.com and said that the album was going to be released sometime in 2010. In an interview with Semtex TV, Nelly told reporters that he planned to release the album under the name Nelly. In April 2010, Nelly's cousin Michael Johnson was murdered in Missouri, Nelly said that he delayed releasing the album because of this. Guests featured on the album were, T-Pain, Chris Brown, Akon, Plies, T.I., Kelly Rowland, Birdman, DJ Khaled, Avery Storm and Diddy-Dirty Money. In May 2010, Nelly confirmed that the title of the album was 5.0. The album was released on November 16, 2010. The album's lead single "Just a Dream" was released on August 17, 2010, through iTunes along with the promotional single "Tippin' In da Club". The two songs were released to Mainstream and Rhythm/Crossover radio on August 10, 2010. "Just a Dream" made its first chart appearance debuting on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 12 and peaking at number 3 in its fourth week. The song also debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Digital Songs chart, selling 888,000 downloads in its first week. "Just a Dream" is Nelly's highest-charting song since his 2005 single "Grillz" and debuted at number 7 on the Billboard Rap Songs. The song entered the Canadian Hot 100 in August 2010, at number 32 It debuted in Australia (ARIA Charts) on the Singles Chart at number 3, in New Zealand Singles Charts at number 29, and in Switzerland (Media Control AG) at number 52. The second single "Move That Body", which features T-Pain and Akon, was released on October 12, 2010. The song made its first chart appearance debuting on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 54 and has reached a current peak at number 29 in Australia. Nelly is featured on the second single by singer Mohombi entitled "Miss Me", produced by RedOne. On November 13, 2010, Nelly appeared on the Pacquiao vs. Margarito pay-per-view, at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. "Gone" is the sequel to Nelly's 2002 worldwide number-one single "Dilemma", also with Rowland, and serves as third single from Nelly's album.
2011–present: M.O. and The Next: Fame Is at Your Doorstep 
On December 24, 2011, Nelly released a mixtape titled O.E.M.O. (which stands for On Everything MO), which features guest performances from T.I., 2 Chainz, Bei Maejor, St. Lunatics and more.
On July 4, 2012, via his Twitter, Nelly announced the title for his seventh studio album and revealed that Chris Brown is featured on "Marry Go Round", the first single from M.O..
In August 2012, Nelly became a coach on The CW Television Network's new show, The Next: Fame Is at Your Doorstep, along with Gloria Estefan, John Rich and Joe Jonas. Nelly released his second mixtape, Scorpio Season, on November 2, 2012.
Artistry Further information: List of awards and nominations received by Nelly
Nelly’s rapping style has been described by Peter Shapiro as using "unforgettable hooks based on schoolyard songs, double-dutch chants, and nonsense rhymes" and has a "Missouri twang". Allmusic suggests Nelly's style is based largely on where he comes from - "Nelly's locale certainly informs his rapping style, which is as much country as urban, and his dialect as well, which is as much Southern drawl as Midwestern twang". Nelly explains his method of writing in the book How to Rap, describing how he freestyles most of the lyrics before going back over them to "make it a little tighter", he generally writes in the studio rather than at home, he normally comes up with a chorus for a song before writing the verses, and he likes to write to the music he will be rapping over. Allmusic also notes his "tongue-twisting" hooks, which are also often sung rather than rapped. Nelly began listening to artists like Rakim, LL Cool J, Run–D.M.C., Outkast, Goodie Mob and Jay-Z. He became convinced that his gift for rap could be parlayed into a career. He has his own style of rap which he likes to describe as a jazz form of hip hop.
Other ventures 
Nike and Nelly agreed on a one-year deal in 2003 to release a limited-edition sneaker called the "Air Derrty", which was a retro remake of Charles Barkley's signature sneaker. Nelly later signed a shoe deal with Reebok. Nelly has done ads for Got Milk and the Ford Motor Company. His energy drink Pimp Juice sold one million cans during the first two months after its introduction in August 2003, and was criticized for its name by black consumer activists. Nelly owns Apple Bottoms, a female clothing line, and Vokal, which caters to men. He was one of the owners of the Charlotte Bobcats, along with Robert L. Johnson and Michael Jordan until Jordan became the new owner in March 2010.
Nelly has played the Main Event at the 2007 World Series of Poker. He has also played The PokerStars European Poker Tour and PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. In August, 2010, Nelly started a temporary stint as the afternoon host on WHHL HOT 104.1 in St. Louis. He is taking the place of regular PM drive personality, Stacy Static, who is on pregnancy leave.
According to STLtoday, the initial ratings for the show are very high. This gig garnered national attention in the Huffington Post and other websites. On September 28, 2010, Nelly is releasing a fitness DVD entitled Celebrity Sweat, walking viewers through various exercises and weight training techniques.
Nelly runs the non-profit organization 4Sho4Kids Foundation. The Jes Us 4 Jackie campaign began in March 2003 by Nelly and his sister Jackie Donahue after Donahue was diagnosed with leukemia. The campaign attempts to educate African Americans and other minorities about the need for bone marrow transplants, and to register more donors. Donahue lost her battle with leukemia on March 24, 2005, almost two years after the campaign began. In 2010, Nelly endorsed Do Something's Tackle Hunger campaign. In a public service announcement he filmed for the cause, Nelly challenged teens to fight hunger by collecting one million pounds of food for the holiday season.
Film and television career 
Nelly's film debut came in 2001 in the independent film Snipes playing a famous rapper named Prolifik. His big movie role came in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. The movie's soundtrack includes his songs "Errtime" and "Fly Away". In June 2008, in an interview with Kiwibox, Nelly revealed that he is reluctant to continue his acting career, noting that he does not want to "take away from the culture of acting." In 2008 and 2009, Nelly appeared in episodes of the CBS crime drama CSI: NY. In 2011, he made a cameo appearance on 90210.