Nelly eyes the future

Ever since his debut record Country Grammar hit the charts in 2000, St. Louis rapper Nelly has been a force to contend with in the pop and hip-hop worlds. With a string of hits including Hot In Herre, Dilemma and Over and Over with country superstar Tim McGraw, Nelly has proven time and again his reliability when it comes to churning out chart-topping hits.

Nelly, in his first Metro Moncton appearance, will be performing at the Moncton Coliseum on Sunday evening. Halifax native JRDN opens the show, which gets underway at 7 p.m.

Nelly’s most recent record, 5.0, is his sixth full-length effort in the past 11 years. With 16 million records sold prior to the Nov. 2010 release of 5.0, he was certainly set up for success with his newest effort, however the record has yet to move beyond the half-million mark for sales in the United States, the first of his records not to reach Gold status in his homeland.

Frustrated with the slow reaction to the record late last year, Nelly took to his Twitter account to openly voice his disappointment and anger at the lack of promotion behind 5.0.

In his online postings, he pointed the finger of blame squarely at his record company, Universal Music Group, for having dropped the ball in what he felt was a very significant way.

Speaking with the Times & Transcript last week, the rapper admits that it is all water under the bridge at this point.

“As an artist, I don’t think there is any musician that hasn’t been vocal about the state of the music industry in the past four or five years,” he starts. “Do I think things could have been done differently to promote my last record? Absolutely.”

Nelly says that he conceded that the music business and promotion of records are a group effort and he came to realize that it is in everyone’s best interest to work through these issues and come to a compromise rather than pointing blame at a specific party.

Given the amount of musicians freeing themselves from the major label music business in the past three years, has the rapper considered striking out on his own once he has fulfilled his contractual obligations?

“I don’t think there is any artist that is in the game that is still considerably relevant that hasn’t thought about being independent,” he confirms. “I think all smart bands and artists are weighing their options; independence is something that I think every artist thinks about.

“Think about if Lil Wayne or Eminem were independent,” he says. “It wouldn’t be a game changer for the business, it would be game over!

“But it’s not to say that labels don’t have their place. As an artist when you get the right company and the promotional machine behind you, it is a great thing. Truth is, there are many pros and cons to the whole label situation.”

Though music has been his driving force over the past decade, Nelly admits he would like to look at expanding his horizons into acting. First though, he wants to be sure that he has the necessary time and resources to dedicate to perfecting the art.

“I do not feel as those I am one of those people that can multi-task creatively,” he says. “When I am in my music, I want to be about my music and when I am acting I want to be fully immersed in that role.

“Just because I am Nelly and have had success in music doesn’t mean that those talents are going to carry over to acting, which I am definitely interested in pursuing down the road. It is going to be something that I really have to work at when I do go down that road.”

Nelly divulges the secret to his successful music career so far has been surrounding himself with people that keep him motivated to continue doing what he is doing.

“It is so important that anyone have a ground-level type of foundation to keep you motivated to push forward. I don’t think anybody should waste the time or energy associating with people or things that aren’t giving you that kind of support. Sometimes you have to switch things up but if it is for the greater good, you can’t lose.”

Despite not having actively toured over the past five years, Nelly is looking forward to hitting the road again. He says that he is looking forward to his first visit to Moncton and having the opportunity to connect with fans in all parts of the world.

“The past five years has been me doing shows here and there. There hasn’t really been any sustained touring on my part so I am looking forward to being out on the road again and connecting with my fans.

“Having my shows so well attended has been a nice reassurance that people are still digging what I am doing. We are going to have a lot of fun in Moncton.”

Article published in March 25, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript