Nelly raises the bar every time he enters the studio or hits the stage.
That’s a just a fact at this point when it comes to the multi-platinum Grammy Award-winning rap superstar, entrepreneur, philanthropist and actor. His entire career has been based on a personal desire to surpass not only everybody else’s expectations, but his own as well. In some ways, you could call that drive to excel his “Modus Operandi” – translated “Method of Operation” – or simply M.O.
Now, Nelly’s seventh full-length album, M.O. [Republic Records], sees him reaching the greatest heights yet. With one irresistible, slick hip-hop anthem after another, he’s flaunting contagious swagger and the same mic skills that made millions of fans believe in him when he first burst onto the scene back in 2000. The track also arrived hot on the heels of “Cruise (Remix),” his record-breaking 5x platinum-selling smash collaboration with Florida Georgia Line.
The single “Get Like Me” featuring Nicki Minaj and Pharrell, shows that nobody can heat up a room quite like he can with its effortless panache and sexy sizzle. At the same time, its follow-up single, “Heaven” featuring Daley illuminates another side of the album. Daley’s shimmering hook floats upwards, while Nelly’s artful rapping resounds.
This time around, he teamed up with production powerhouses, Rico Love (Beyonce, Usher), Detail (Lil Wayne, T-Pain) and Pharrell (Jay Z, Daft Punk, and Justin Timberlake). Plus, he invited some of his closest friends and today’s hottest artists to collaborate.
Album opener “100K” sees 2 Chainz unleash a vibrant verse that’s as sharp as it is soaring. On “IDGAF,” T.I.’s inimitable swag shines through at full blast. Nelly delivers the uplifting “Headphones” with a little help from Nelly Furtado, and Future brings the sonic seduction to “Give U Dat.” Once again, country duo Florida Georgia Line drives “Walk Away” down south. Meanwhile, Trey Songz, Yo Gotti, and Fabolous all offer their respective voices to this hip-hop opus.
It’s an M.O. that works for everybody.
The St. Louis native has been striving for excellence since his days as a member of the St. Lunatics. However, he stepped into the spotlight with the release of 2000’s Country Grammar. Spending seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and spawning the massive hits “Ride Wit Me” [featuring City Spud], “Country Grammar,” and “E.I.,” the album garnered four Grammy Award nominations and sold an impressive 9 million copies worldwide.
No easy feat, but he followed it up with the chart-topping Nellyville in 2002. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 and went on to move more than 6 million units. It also saw Nelly snag his first two Grammy Awards for “Hot in Herre” – Best Male Rap Solo Performance – and “Dilemma” [featuring Kelly Rowland] – Best Rap Sung Collaboration. In addition, Nellyville notched two American Music Awards, a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award, and two Soul Train Music Awards. He was also crowned “Top Pop, Rap, and R&B/Hip-Hop Artist” of the year by Billboard.
After a 2003 platinum-selling remix album Da Derrty Versions (The Reinvention), Nelly dropped “Shake Ya Tailfeather” [featuring Murphy Lee and P. Diddy] on the Bad Boys II soundtrack. Immediately, it became a massive hit, being named “Best Hip-Hop Video” at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards and giving Nelly his third Grammy Award in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
He branched out as an entrepreneur that same year by introducing women’s clothing line Apple Bottoms, a men’s clothing line called Vokal, and Pimp Juice energy drink. Plus, he partnered with Nike on the Air Derrty limited edition sneaker. Now, he’s also the CEO of his own label Derrty Ent. and co-owner of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA expansion team. In March 2003, he and his late sister Jackie Donahue launched the Jes Us 4 Jackie Foundation. Upon Jackie’s diagnosis with leukemia, they aimed to educate and spread awareness about the need for bone marrow and stem cell transplant donations as well as attract more donors.
2004 proved to be a landmark year for both Nelly and hip-hop. Releasing not one but two albums, Sweat and Suit, he was the first solo artist and first hip-hop artist ever to debut at #1 and #2 on the Billboard Top 200. Sweat was certified platinum, fueled by hits such as “Tilt Ya Head Back” [featuring Christina Aguilera], while Suit moved three million copies and yielded the crossover country smash “Over and Over” [featuring Tim McGraw].
In 2005, he made his big screen debut in the Adam Sandler and Chris Rock hit remake The Longest Yard. He nailed the performance and won “Choice Rap Artist in a Movie” at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards. However, that same year, Donahue passed away. Even in the aftermath of that tragedy, Nelly remained committed to fighting cancer and continued tirelessly championing the Jes Us 4 Jackie Foundation. To this day, nine lives have been saved due to the foundation’s groundbreaking initiatives to match bone marrow donors.
Taking a three-year break from music, Nelly returned with Brass Knuckles in 2008. At the same time, he took on a recurring role on the smash hit CBS series CSI:NY until 2009. That year, Billboard ranked Nelly at number three on their “Top Artists of the Decade” list. His 2010 album, 5.0, boasted the multi-platinum-selling lead single “Just a Dream,” which firmly placed him on top once more. 2013 also saw him join the cast of the #1-rated BET sitcom The Real Husbands of Hollywood and strike up partnerships with both General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios and Mike and Ikes, further extending his mainstream influence.
However, M.O. ignites the brightest and best chapter of Nelly’s illustrious career to date. Combining all of the trademarks of his inimitable style and a decidedly fresh approach, it’s the ultimate example of his champion spirit once again raising the bar and reaching for the stars.