What do you do if you’ve gone from selling 8 million- plus records in your debut to a measly 250,000 four albums later?
Well, if you’re Nelly and you’re losing your popularity the answer is clear: Round up as many big-name producers and guest artists as you can and make an unabashedly hip-pop album, with nearly as much singing as rapping, irresistible dance beats and a relentless swarm of catchy choruses.
The St. Louis-based rap singer headlines the Blizzard Music Tour 5.0 – named after his latest album – that stops at the Spokane Arena next Thursday.
When Nelly released “Country Grammar” back in 2000, it was a commercial phenomenon, topping the Billboard charts, scoring three Grammy nominations and receiving numerous other accolades and awards.
One of the best-selling artists of any genre in the 2000s, Nelly continued to top charts throughout the decade, selling more than 30 million albums and tying Elton John for the most consecutive weeks at No. 1.
In 2004 he dropped two albums on the same day, “Sweat” and “Suit,” and became the first artist in history to debut at No. 1 and No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200.
But all that momentum slowed with his fifth album, 2008’s “Brass Knuckles,” which was a commercial failure by comparison, falling short of producing a No. 1 single.
Nelly returned triumphant last year with his latest studio set, “5.0.” Marking the 10th anniversary of “Country Grammar,” it found him achieving his usual commercial success.
The album’s leadoff platinum single, “Just a Dream,” was No. 1 on iTunes’ Top Hip-hop/Rap Songs chart, No. 2 on Billboard’s Ringtones chart and No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and Digital Songs chart, and clocked more than 15 million views on VEVO.
“5.0” – actually Nelly’s sixth album, the title is a reference to his beloved Ford Mustang – features red-hot producers Jim Jonsin and Dr. Luke, and so many guest artists it could almost be mistaken for a compilation, including T.I., T-Pain, Akon, Birdman, Keri Hilson, Kelly Rowland, DJ Khaled, Chris Brown, Bangladesh, Rico Love, Polow Da Don and P. Diddy.
Of the two songs with the word “gone” in the title – there’s “Gone,” and then there’s “Long Gone” – “Gone” reunited Nelly with Rowland in his self-described sequel to their 2002 hit duet “Dilemma.”
If Nelly (born Cornell Haynes Jr.) does someday lose his knack for crafting a pop hit, he has plenty to fall back on.
Beyond music, he released a fitness DVD called “Celebrity Sweat” in September 2010, and his hugely successful Apple Bottoms clothing line for women has expanded to include fragrances, handbags and accessories, footwear, intimates, swimsuits, plus sizes, scrubs, sunglasses, jewelry, girls’ wear and infant apparel.
In addition to recently acquiring the rights to the Troop clothing line, Nelly is the CEO of his own label, Derrty Ent., co-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team and founder of two nonprofit organizations, 4Sho4Kids and Jes Us 4 Jackie.