Happy 44th Birthday to Nelly, Hip-Hop’s Underrated Legend
Words By: Manuel Portugal
When it comes to Hip-Hop runs and artists’ contributions to the rap game, many fail to mention St. Louis’ own, Nelly.
The rapper has put out timeless hits such as “Country Grammar” and “Ride Wit Me,” which became radio darlings cementing his rightful place on the top of the charts. Not to mention, the STL native’s technical influence is also massively underrated. He is one of the first artists to bring the sing-rapping technique into the mainstream (yes, Bone Thugs did too), which helped influence newer artists after him. It’s possible to say that 808s-era Kanye West and peak-T-Pain would sound different without a Nelly doing the singing-sound before them. Drake, Ty Dolla $ign, Kid Cudi share these same attributes as they all come from the sound the “Hot In Herre” rapper helped establish.
Nelly not only managed to help establish a sound he also had massive cross-over appeal. The fact that he collaborated with peak-NSYNC made him a household name. Sooner than later, kids would sport cartoon band-aids on cheeks right below the eye, imitating the St. Louis legend. When it came to fashion, he was THE guy. Apple Bottoms became a popular brand in the early 2000’s started by the rapper, which later expanded to include women’s and girl’s clothing, perfume and accessories. The brand was also name-dropped in several popular songs, some of which included: Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity,” MC Jin’s “36-24-36,”, T-Pain’s hook on Flo-Rida’s “Low,” DaCav5’s “Tetris,” and Eminem’s “Shake That.”
The man made us want gold grills and convinced us through representation that country music was cool. Outside of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, the Midwest was not making sounds in mainstream rap. Although Kanye West arrive in the scene four years later, Nelly first helped bring light to an area that was full of potential. Artists like Chingy benefited greatly from Nelly’s success. Chingy opened up shows for Nelly at the beginning of his career, which helped put him in from of Ludacris to eventually sign to DTP. St. Lunatic’s own, Murphy Lee was also the only member in the group to earn a Gold album and single due to Nelly’s popularity.
His popularity is key to his success. With a classic album under his belt in Country Grammar, the project was certified Diamond, Nellyville went 6x multi-Platinum worldwide, Sweat and Suit albums went Platinum and 3x multi-Platinum respectively and the Sweatsuit compilation also going Gold.
Nelly’s place in Hip-Hop may not be celebrated as it should be, but he has the accolades to back it up.
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