Meshack and Animal
Nelly is a guy that's hard to hate. He isn't the typical Rapper in that he ain't about no underground back pack ish, nor does he posture like a G, thug, or criminal. He does like the flash of diamond encrusted platinum chains, and he does take care of those with whom he paid dues along the way. He has also weathered the storm of envy by fellow MC's and overcome what this business affectionately calls the 'Sophmore Jinx'. There is one thing I have noticed about Nelly over the past three years and that is his love for children. At his last video shoot I witnessed him encouraging all those who worked with him to purchase something from two young boys selling overpriced candy bars for charity. At the end of the day the boys walked away with a pocketful of money and no candy. That's when I knew Nelly is truly THE PEOPLE'S CHAMP
KRONICK: What or where is Nellyville?
NELLY: Nellyville is kinda like a spot that if I could really put together a town right now, with just me and what's been going on with me; kinda like the life after the success, so to speak. Nellyville would be the town I'd put together. I kinda go into more detail on the album by opening the album with that track. Nellyville is straight out the gate, so I'm introducing people and giving them insight into what it's like in life after selling eight or nine million albums worldwide. Or whatever the case. But life has changed a lot. Majority for the good, but a lot of bad comes with a lot of good sometimes. And you just gotta weigh it out. Just let 'em know that it ain't about just cars and girls and all that. Because a lot of times when you're splurgin', you just showin' a lot of love to a lot of different people; helpin' a lotta different people in different certain situations. This is my thing, this is how I do it. But I don't knock nobody for the way that they doin' what they doin'. Without me, nobody else could do them. And without them, I couldn't be me. So I think it balances out.
KRONICK: This is our third time in as many years speaking with you and you're still very humble.
NELLY: Well thanks, Man.
KRONICK: And you don't talk shit on your records.
NELLY: I ain't?
KRONICK: A lotta people do and in time, they lose fans. But there's nothing unlikable about you.
NELLY: Right. I think for me, my life has been rough enough. You feel me? I done been through all that. I probably done lived the Gangsta life more than half the people that claim they Gangsta,. You feel what I'm sayin'? So when I'm Rappin' I like to have fun. Man, that's just how I like to do it. I done been through them times. I don't like to keep remindin' myself that I was poor everyday, or nothin' like that. Not sayin' that I don't know I take it to the extreme a lotta times, as far as the whole flash thing. But that's just hunger in me; that's desire in me. And if the kids see that, that's ok.. But let me tell them how to get it the right way. It's ok to want nice things lil' dirty. Ain't nothing wrong with that. But you gotta work to get it. That's the thing; you gotta work to get it. Life is rules, and you gotta learn the rules. A lotta times the rules come in with school. School gives you all the rules to play this game we call life. You might not agree with all the rules, but a lot of times you gotta play by 'em. So in order to play by 'em, you gotta learn 'em. And school is what teaches you to learn the rules. You know? At least graduate from high school! That's at least what I try to tell 'em.
KRONICK: How about sports?
NELLY: Sports is definitely an outlet. I think sports is like that competitive edge. Sports give you a hunger to win. But sports also teaches you to lose. And if you're good in sports, and if you love sports you know how to lose, because you always wanna win. You just make sure you do more winning than losing. But everybody's gonna lose at some point and time. So I love sports because it taught me that. Sports taught me discipline, the hunger to win, but also to accept losing sometimes when you're not always on your best. But you also try to prepare.
KRONICK: So what does it take to be #1, and were you expecting the controversy coming outta left-field from Blastmaster KRS-One?
NELLY: That's what I'm asking. And that surprised the Hell outta me. Let me first start by saying I respect KRS-One with the utmost. Without Dirty I wouldn't be here. He definitely is one of the forefathers of this and he's definitely layin' it down. My thing is, let me do my thing. My thing ain't KRS-One thing! Just because I don't do my thing the way KRS-One do, KRS-One got a problem with how I do my thing. And that ain't right! That ain't right in life, period. You can't try to structure or hold this Hip Hop thing back. It's over! It's out in the world now. It's over. You can't hold it, you can't keep it one way. You have sub-divisions. Hip Hop is a way of life. Rap is a form of Hip Hop. Dancing is a form of Hip Hop. Djin' is a form of Hip Hop. So you gotta let it progress. Hip Hop is the way of the world now. In any culture, in any music; when somebody needs a hit where do they turn to? They turn to Hip Hop. When people want tight tracks they turn to Hip Hop producers. It's just that we are the origin of music right now. I think to really guideline it and try to keep it one way is not benefitting anybody. I don't know if he's afraid of getting forgotten or something, but I got much love for KRS. Don't ever forget it
KRONICK: And the way you respond is very intelligent. A lotta Cats would come back ignorant. But you showed another way to deal with these situations by going on 106&Park offering to do a song with Dirty.
NELLY: It's a respect thing, you feel me? 'Cause like, if you hit me I'ma hit you back. But I won't strike you first. I'm not a battle rapper, but I'll wrap up the battle. And that's how I look at it. I'm not really one to throw no punches because I ain't tryin' to attack you, Man! I'm trying to live my life. I'm tryin' to do my thing and I ain't tryin' to hurt nobody. I came out goin' 'Down-Down'! I ain't said nothin' about nobody, I ain't tryin' to take over nobody's space, I ain't tryin' ta do nothin'! So for somebody to come outta left-field, especially him; I thought if anybody, he would probably appreciate... Well I ain't gon' say appreciate, but rather understand what's goin' on as far as Hip Hop branching off. I thought he would be proud of Hip Hop branching off. I thought he would be proud of Hip Hop taking it to other dimensions: Hip Hop's #1 on BET, Hip Hop's #1 on TRL, Hip Hop's #1 on Much Music in Canada, Hip Hop's #1 in Germany! You feel what I'm saying? That's what it is. That's what he built! I'm just trying to explore that. So for him to come at it like that; I have to ask, 'Is he desperate right now? Is it desperate times?' That's what I'm trying to figure out. I don't know.
KRONICK: Well word on the street is that the old timer wants to boycott your album.
NELLY: Well what we have here is a hypocrite running around. And what I mean by hypocrite is that anybody who follows Hip Hop and is really watching what's going on knows this man is a hypocrite right now. Because the first time I ever heard of a gun was from this man. "Wah-da-da-ding Da-da-da-da-dang, listen to my nine millimeter go Bang!" Hmmmn?!? Let's see, what else? "Boogie Down Productions will always get paid"? Word. I mean, come on now? I guess it was Hip Hop then and not now! He picks and he chooses, but he's trying to get back into the Game. Whatever, whatever, whatever! All he's doing with me is benefitting me and letting everybody know when my release date is. 'Cause he can't be talking to none of my fans because none of my fans even know him! The "Roc Tha Mic Remix" stuff I did have nothing to do with Beans and Freeway, it got to do with me and this man right here. It was just a remix and nothing more. It came out kinda hot and a lot of people were feeling it. But that wasn't even a dis. Duke acts like he's answering the "Roc Tha Mic Remix" when that wasn't even a full dis. I spit four bars about you and you come back with a whole song? Then say you got six more ready? Come on Dirty, we waitin' for this! I got something for you though. Load up the chamber Dirty!
KRONICK: Well let's switch it up to a more positive subject. A lot of the kids on my block love you because they say you look like you're really having fun doing this. Does it ever seem like work to you? And if so, when?
NELLY: That's what it is; a lot of fun. But it does seem like work because you do a lot of work. I mean, I don't like photo shoots (Reader reminder: the whole time I'm talking to Nelly, Animal is all in his grill with the camera) and stuff like that. ( I laugh) No, no. Honestly though! If I'ma be real, (Animal doesn't quit, but instead puts the lens even closer to Nelly's nose - just look on the cover!) I don't like that! I don't like no picture I take. That's just me self-consciously. That ain't me. But I like performing. I love being in the studio and creating. Whatever the fact. But with the kids, like I said, my life was hard enough. I don't have to keep dwelling on it. I do touch on it though. I will remind you. But I'm not gon' dwell on it. Nobody that I know wants to keep being reminded that they're in poverty and that they're poor. If people are going out and buying the music, I want them to look at Nelly as an inspiration then; if that's what you wanna do. Look at somebody that did come from nothing and did do it. So ok, although I'm rappin' about how I'm doin' it now, well that's your inspiration because I know you wanna do it too.
KRONICK: How important are the 9 million fans that bought Country Grammar? It's phenomenal!
NELLY: Thank you. I appreciate that. I think that out of 9 million you probably got 4-5 million that are really your fans; that are really behind you like, Now! Like, "We like what Duke do, so we're gonna support him on whatever album he drop." So to speak. Then you got another probably, 2-3 million that as long as you're droppin' hot shit, they're rolliin' with you. Everything after that is friends of people that bought it and loved it. But if they feel that something else comes along, you don't mind that. Because that's the way of the world. I don't buy every artist's album, but I appreciate every artist when they do they thing. And if it's something hot by a particular artist, I will go get it. Even though it might be my first time ever buying it, I will go get it. And that's how it is. So I just try to do what I'm doing because I think that's what the people appreciate. I don't want to let them down by trying to change for the few that ain't approving of me no way; that ain't really supporting me, that's not really buying the album. So I'm not gonna change my ways for them because that's not keeping it real for me. Keeping it real for me is doing me and looking out for the people that supported me.
KRONICK: In my opinion as a music journalist/critic I think you have the hottest feel-good song of 2002. It'll be on those next NOW compilations for years to come. When Nelly took a trip to the Neptunes, how did you come up with that incredible hook for "Hot In Herre"?
NELLY: Once Pharall played me the joint and I heard it, I knew it was a club banger. I knew I had to come up with something. Pharall and them usually come up with the hooks on most of their tracks, but I think it's important for me to come up with my own. When I'm writing I need to feel like it's mine, hooks and all. I'm not knockin' nothing nor am I saying I would never use a Pharall hook because when I heard that, actually we started vibing together and kinda came up with the hook together a lil' bit. Just sittin' in there when I first heard it.. But that's just how I like rolling right now. I just wanted that anthem; to get that chant going. One for the men and one for the ladies. I think everybody done been in that party where it got so hot the walls were sweatin'. It's hot and it's almost unbearable, but don't nobody want to leave because you're rocking and having a good time! So you'd rather start taking clothes than to leave. You done seen Brothas in there down to their tank tops, down to no shirts; shirts tucked in their back pockets. And you might even see young ladies taking their clothes off, depending on what they have on up under that. So I think that was my focus and that was my thing, Man. And it's summertime, Man. Let's have a ball! I'm trying to keep Brothas minds off goin' out here knockin' each other. Let's have a ball this summer.
KRONICK: Well you got it! Let's talk movies and clothing. Speak on it.
NELLY: Well the movie thing is something I'm definitely looking more and more to get into. I want to benefit other than just the music as well. I look at people like the P. Diddy's, the Ice Cube's, the Jay-Z's, the Master P's as people who have had good success outside the music in general. And they're making a better way while not being stereotypical of someone in the Rap industry. As if that's all we know is this and that from the Hood or the streets. No, well we do have business sense too. And we know our target audience and our market. And guess what? We do know how to market this Hip Hop genre if anybody does because we're in it. And that's what I think I can do because a lot of people like the flavor. They kinda like our style as far as the Lunatics and how we get down. We came out the gate wearing athletic jerseys. If you look at "Country Grammar", it's all athletic jerseys. If you look at "E.I." it's all athletic gear. We came out the gate like that. I know you see a lot of rappers doin' it now where in every video they have a basketball jersey and all that, and all that too. That's cool, and we love it. But when we came out the gate it was like, 'Boom! This is how we gettin' down!' And the fashion thing is the Vokal clothing line. That's out now in Macy's and May Co stores. It's also at a lot of mom & pop stores in the hoods so we can hold that down too.
KRONICK: Before you came in the Game a lot of rappers were scared to sing. Now Cats are switching up their styles and adding women to the mix.
NELLY: Right. But people been singing all the way back to MC Shan with (starts singing) 'Girl, why you have to leave me that way?' LL told 'em way back in the '80's 'I Need Love'. This wasn't nothin' new. I think for Hip Hop it took R&B to get it to radio. Now R&B takes Hip Hop in order to stay on the radio. It's just that Hip Hop is the music if the youth. But the youth is still gonna love its R&B. I think with people like myself, Cee-Lo, Ja Rule and others, we've been able to do a good job mixing it up. I think we're bringing a good blend to where you could listen to a whole album and not feel one way. You can switch it up here and there.
KRONICK: So who is Jackie Frost?
NELLY: I think every other rapper keeps an alias and Jackie Frost is one of my aliases. When it's time to splurge and it's time to get the bankroll out, or do whatever it is, that's Jackie Frost. Nelly is the laid-back, chilled out swinger. And Cornel the man behind the scenes who takes care of all the business and all that. You go into your moods.
KRONICK: Other magazines want to hate on the original band aid style. Will you tell us why you wear the band aid?
NELLY: People hate on whatever I do, Man. It ain't really an issue. Pick what you want, it don't even matter. I'm band aided because I'm holding it down for my little brother. My little brother got locked up and has to serve out ten years. So I'm scarred 'til he gets out and that's why I wear this band aid to let him know we're still with him 'til he gets out.
KRONICK: How is Spud?
NELLY: City is doin' excellent. I think the more and more better we do the more and more it takes his mind off of his situation. It keeps him occupied.