Cornell Iral Haynes Jr. (born November 2, 1974), known professionally as Nelly, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, investor, and occasional actor from St. Louis, Missouri. Nelly embarked on his music career with Midwest hip hop group St. Lunatics, in 1993 and signed to Universal Records in 1999. Under Universal, Nelly began his solo career in the year 2000, with his debut album Country Grammar, of which the title-track 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.[7] 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 of Sweat, 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", was certified triple platinum in the United States. It also included the singles "Move That Body" (featuring T-Pain and Akon) and "Gone" (a sequel to the 2002 single "Dilemma" in collaboration with Kelly Rowland).

Nelly 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 the fourth best-selling rap artist in American music history,[20] with 21 million albums sold in the United States. On December 11, 2009, Billboard ranked Nelly the number three Top Artist of the Decade.[20]

Life and career

1974–2000: Early life and career beginnings

Nelly was born in Austin, Texas, where his father was serving in the Air Force. When he was seven, his parents divorced.[10] Nelly moved with his mother from St. Louis to University City, Missouri as a teenager. While still in high school, Nelly formed the St. Lunatics, a hip hop group who enjoyed local popularity with their single "Gimme What Ya Got". Nelly decided to go solo, after a major record deal failed to appear.[11] He was signed to Universal Music Group by A&R Kevin Law.[12] 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".[12] 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.[12] Nelly was signed with St. Lunatics.[12] 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.[13]

2000–03: Breakthrough with Country Grammar and Nellyville

The label released his debut album Country Grammar in 2000. The success of its title track as a single (#7 on the Hot 100 and No. 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 City Spud; and "Batter Up", featuring the St. Lunatics.[11] The album was certified 9× platinum by the RIAA on April 27, 2004.[5]

In 2002, Nelly's second album Nellyville was released, debuting at No. 1 on Billboard's Top 200 Music Albums;[15] its lead single "Hot in Herre" was a number-one hit. Other singles included "Dilemma" featuring Kelly Rowland, with over 7,6 million records sold worldwide,[5] "Work It" featuring Justin Timberlake, "Air Force Ones" featuring Murphy Lee and the St. Lunatics, "Pimp Juice", and "#1".[11] This album was highly successful and was certified 6x multi-platinum on June 27, 2003.[5] "Hot in Herre" won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rap Solo Performance in 2003.[21] 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.[5] Similar claims of misogyny also surrounded Nelly's single "Pimp Juice".[5] 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.[21]

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.[5] On the 2004 NBC television concert special Tim McGraw: Here and Now, McGraw and Nelly performed the song.[5] A feud with another St. Louis-based rapper, Chingy, came up near the end of the year.[5] Tsunami Aid: A Concert for Hope, a 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake benefit concert special produced by NBC, featured Nelly.[7] 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,[28] Initial release dates for the album targeted October 16[4] and November 13.[30] 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.[4][30] Nelly later confirmed that "Wadsyaname" was never going to be on Brass Knuckles. Nelly recorded "Party People",[4] featuring Fergie and produced by Polow da Don, which turned out to be his first official single off the album.[28] "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.[5] In October 2009, Nelly did an interview with SOHH.com and said that the album was going to be released sometime in 2010.[5] In an interview with Semtex TV, Nelly told reporters that he planned to release the album under the name Nelly.[7] In April 2010, Nelly's cousin Michael Johnson was murdered in Missouri, Nelly said that he delayed releasing the album because of this.[7] 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.[7] In May 2010, Nelly confirmed that the title of the album was 5.0.[7] The album was released on November 16, 2010.[39] The album's lead single "Just a Dream" was released on August 17, 2010, through iTunes[15] along with the promotional single "Tippin' In da Club".[35] The two songs were released to Mainstream and Rhythm/Crossover radio on August 10, 2010.[43] "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.[44][46] "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[21] It debuted in Australia (ARIA Charts) on the Singles Chart at number 3,[23] 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.[50] 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.[27][53] 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.[20] "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.

2011–2014: M.O. and The Next: Fame Is at Your Doorstep

In June 2011, Pitbull released a song off the deluxe version of the album Planet Pit featuring Nelly titled "My Kinda Girl".

In December 2011, Nelly released his first ever official solo mixtape, entitled O.E.MO, which stands for "On Everything MO". The mixtape features guest appearances from T.I., 2 Chainz, Bei Maejor, St. Lunatics and more.[20]

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, entitled Scorpio Season, on November 2, 2012.[20]

In February 2013, Nelly released "Hey Porsche", the lead single from his seventh studio album M.O.. The song peaked at number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit the top ten in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In April 2013, a remix of "Cruise", the breakthrough single of country music duo Florida Georgia Line, featuring Nelly, was released. Nelly's next single "Get Like Me" featuring Nicki Minaj and Pharrell was released on iTunes July 2, 2013.

The album M.O. was released on September 30, 2013, by Republic Records.

2014–present: TV Series and upcoming eighth studio album

As of 2015, Nelly currently stars in his own TV show Nellyville, which began airing November 2014 and finished airing its second season. The series airs on BET and is about Nelly's music and acting career and raising his four kids. On August 6, 2015, Nelly premiered a new single titled "The Fix", was released to retailers August 14, 2015 on his label he started called "RECORDS".[20] In an interview with Big Boy on 92.3, Nelly stated there may or may not be a new album following his new music.[20]

Film and television career

Nelly's film debut came in 2001 in the independent film Snipes playing a famous rapper named Prolifik.[20] His big movie role came in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock.[20] 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."[20] In 2008 and 2009, Nelly appeared in episodes of the CBS crime drama CSI: NY.[20] In 2011, he made a cameo appearance on 90210. He played Officer Glen Donner in the 2014 thriller film A Fall from Grace.[20] In November 2014, Nelly aired his own TV show titled Nellyville, based off the title of his second studio album, which is about his career and raising his four kids.[20] The show finished airing its second season.[20]

Artistry

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".[20] 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".[11] 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",[20] he generally writes in the studio rather than at home,[20] he normally comes up with a chorus for a song before writing the verses,[20] and he likes to write to the music he will be rapping over.[20] AllMusic also notes his "tongue-twisting" hooks, which are also often sung rather than rapped.[20]

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.[20] Nelly later signed a shoe deal with Reebok.[20] 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.[71] 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.[10]

Nelly has played the Main Event at the 2007 World Series of Poker.[10] He has also played The PokerStars European Poker Tour and PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.[10] 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.

In September 2010, Nelly released a fitness DVD entitled Celebrity Sweat, walking viewers through various exercises and weight training techniques.[10]

In 2011, Nelly and Vatterott College worked together to found the Ex'treme Institute By Nelly, which is a music production school in the heart of St. Louis.

In 2015, Nelly teamed up with Mike and Ike candy after a halt in collaborating a year earlier. He and the owners of Mike and Ike released a movie trailer the same day titled "The Return of Mike and Ike" describing the split and reunion.[10]

Philanthropy

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.[10] 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.[10]

Misdemeanor drug-offense conviction (2015)

In April 2015, the Tennessee Highway Patrol conducted a traffic stop of Nelly's Prevost tour bus because of non-conforming U.S. Department of Transportation and International Fuel Tax Association stickers. Nelly was one of six people on board. After a state trooper said that he smelled marijuana, the troopers searched the bus and said that they found drug paraphernalia and marijuana, as well as a substance that they initially believed to be methamphetamine and several handguns.[81][82] Nelly was initially booked into the Putnam County Jail and was released on bail.[81]

Nelly was initially charged with felony drug possession, simple possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.[81] However, after further testing proved that the seized substance was not methamphetamine, the felony charge was dropped.[82] In December 2015, the case was resolved when Nelly pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and was sentenced to one year of probation.[82] Nelly entered a diversion program,[82] in which the misdemeanor convictions were cleared from his record after 11 months.[83]

Tax lien (2016)

In 2016, it was reported that there was a $2.4 million tax lien against Nelly due to unpaid taxes owed the IRS.[84][85]

Rape arrest (2017)

On October 7, 2017, Nelly was arrested in Auburn, Washington, outside Seattle, on suspicion of second-degree rape after a woman alleged that he invited her onto his tour bus earlier that morning and raped her.[86][87] Nelly was booked into a Des Moines, Washington jail,[86] and released from custody without charge.[87] Nelly denied wrongdoing; his attorney said that the accusation was "clearly false."[87]

Discography

Filmography

Film
YearFilmRoleNotes
2001SnipesProlifkLead role
2005The Longest YardEarl MeggetSupporting role
Also sang on the soundtrack
2014Reach MeE-RuptionSupporting role
TBAA Fall from GraceOfficer Glen DonnerSupporting role
Television
YearFilmRoleNotes
2008–2009CSI: NYTerrence Davis4 episodes
201190210HimselfCameo appearance; Episode: "Revenge with the Nerd"
2011–presentT.I. and Tiny: The Family HustleHimselfCameo appearance; Season 1, episode 3 "America's Sweetheart"
Cameo appearance; Season 2, episodes 2 "Birthday Bash", 4 "Bitter Sweet 16", 6 "Who's the Boss?"
2012The Next: Fame Is at Your DoorstepHimselfReality television
2013–2016Real Husbands of HollywoodHimselfRecurring role, 39 episodes
2014–presentNellyvilleHimselfReality television