Hip Hop mega star Nelly has seen a huge amount of success over the last 10 years ringing in hits like “Ride Wit Me,” “Dilemma,” “Hot in Herre,” “Grillz” and many more. So, it should be no surprise that he is ready to do it again with his upcoming album 5.0. Parlé met up with Nelly in NYC where he gave us his thoughts on sectioning off the Hip-Hop Honors, the truth behind his confrontation with Kat Stacks, the real deal with him and Ashanti, plus a whole lot more. Come take a ride with us as we take a journey through the life of Cornell Haynes, Jr. AKA Nelly.
Parlé Magazine: You’re working on an upcoming album?
Nelly: Yes, actually we got two projects in the works. The St. Lunatics project which is called City Free, which is in honor of my little brother who went to jail the first time when we did the first Lunatics album, Free City. My album is called 5.0 and we’re trying to release them at the same time.
Parlé: What is the expected release date?
Nelly: September 21
Parlé: What inspired your music career?
Nelly: I think some of my inspiration came from just being around music. My family was into music. My uncle had his own band and my father use to sing in my uncle’s band. If you want to go to the music influences we could be here all day. That’s everybody from Michael Jackson all the way up to people in the game now that inspire me. I can get inspired just off the energy of Soulja Boy, just his energy, you have to take something from an artist. Everyone may not look at an artist the same way, but it’s something that artist is doing that’s creating his success.
Parlé: I kind of compare you to Soulja Boy because when you came out there were a lot of skeptics. Your music was different and people would say that’s not real rap.
Nelly: That’s different because I wasn’t a kid when I came out. Soulja Boy was 16. I’m saying that when he came out he was a kid so it was naturally a show for him. It’s not about the music right away. It’s a show for him. Not that he’s not putting enough effort into his music, but how much effort can a 16 year old put into his music because as you mature and get older even the songs he’s doing now has evolved and he’s looking back. Cause even when I did “Country Grammar” and I look at “Country Grammar” now I think that was great for then. Not saying that it wouldn’t be hot now, but that song has been copied so many damn times and so many different forms.
Parlé: When you came out you had a lot of haters.
Nelly: Case in point even if you see some of the people now that you know wasn’t fucking with you when “Country Grammar” came out, but when you see them they be like you need to make something like that “Country Grammar”, that was hot. I’m like n***a you wasn’t even fucking with that shit when it came out. Like Murphy said your hater is your future fan in a way. Cause when it’s different they don’t really take to it at first, but after you look back on it you get a chance to reflect on it.
We rehearsed for the Hip-Hop Honors today and we were just like a whole can of worms that has been opened up because I felt what Scarface was saying. I felt even though I’m participating, because I feel you gotta start somewhere, but the OG is right. He’s like when is it going to end, I thought this was Hip-Hop now you’re sectioning this shit off instead of mixing it. What’s next Mid West Hip-Hop Honors, Canadian Hip-Hop Honors? I get it, but I’m not going to miss out on a chance to honor Organized NoiZe or watching my big brother JD get his and P get his.
Parlé: You’ve been in the industry for at least 10 years, how have you managed to stay relevant?
Nelly: I think it’s to the point that you gonna have to find your own way that’s the key. It’s not just one solution because what works for you may not work for the next person. Some people get allowed to play the bad guy, others have to play the good guy some people can straddle the fence and play good guy bad guy. Some people have to pick their lane and choose where they’re gonna go. It’s up to you to find out where you fall into place at. When you’ve been as fortunate as I am, to sell that many records it’s kind of hard not to have a gang of people come fuck with you. It’s up to you to put that product out there.
Parlé: Because each one of your albums has had a huge hit…
Nelly: The thing is, if you’re fortunate to get a first album that sells 10 million you have nowhere to go but down. I’m just going to be honest and your measuring stick is so high that haters are licking their chops because you can’t do nothing but fail. Some people actually said I fell off at Nellyville cause I didn’t sell as many as Country Grammar. I’m like are you kidding me? Sweat and Suit? I broke history, I was the first rapper to have 1st and 2nd album at the same time ever on billboard.
Parlé: So that doesn’t bother you?
Nelly: Hell no.
Parlé: So it doesn’t matter to you if you sell 10 million or 9 million?
Nelly: It matters in the sense that you want to do the best that you can do on every project, but if you can’t, you can’t say it’s a failure because you’re comparing me to myself. It is almost comical but I love it because it reminds me of what I got in the game for. We are all competitors, you in this game to be competitive. You’re going against the grain when people say you can’t do this. I said I’m going to do a song with a country star, they said it is going to be wack. Boom, through the roof. I said I’m going to make a song about grills—”it’s wack.” It went through the roof! I’m doing a song with Kelly–“what you’re going to use Kelly? Why not Beyonce?” It went through the roof. You look for people to say you can’t do shit, because that’s what you focus in on.
Parlé: Your transition from boy to man has been very impressive. How have you managed to stay out of trouble?
Nelly: I guess when you got into so much trouble I aint got no reason to be getting into trouble now. That would be kind of dumb for me to do.
Parlé: But you see a lot of rappers going to jail that it is becoming the image of a rapper.
Nelly: The thing is they don’t have enough time to change. Yesterday he was on the block, today he on stage. You gotta give them time to change, you can’t just make that transition from a dough boy yesterday, now he’s a superstar. Like that mentality doesn’t change overnight. It is like sending a man to jail that did 20 years and then you don’t rehabilitate him, you just send him out on the streets. What I don’t think they capitalize on is the number of rappers that do good stuff for their community. It’s like when we trying to do good stuff you can’t get no cameras there, but when you walking out of that police station you got all them coming out there. But you do a blood drive somewhere and you damn near gotta pay them to come.
Parlé: Switching gears, I’ve been a fan of you since the beginning of your career so when I listened to the radio conversation between you and Kat Stacks I was shocked that she didn’t recognize your voice. I knew it was you.
Nelly: How could she know that was me when she never talked to me?
Parlé: I’ve never heard your voice over the phone and I knew it was you.
Nelly: That’s my point if you had been dealing with me for two months you would have instantly known.
Parlé: I was like that sounds like Nelly.
Nelly: It wasn’t like I was whispering. I was talking the same way I’m talking to you right here. Some people want to believe it because their saying “he’s going so far to defend it”. I’m going so far to defend it because I thought someone should say something to this chick. If it is this easy to come out and start telling lies about somebody then we in for a shock. Okay shorty, when you were with me where were we at? Where did we do it at? She like I can’t remember, but you live in this city and you can’t name a hotel. You’ve been dealing with someone for two months and you can’t name a hotel? Then they said I stuttered when she said “You was fucking with other girls too. What about Haley? You didn’t fuck Haley in front of me?” Yeah I stuttered cause I’m trying to figure out where she coming from with this Haley shit! She can’t name a place cause the place don’t exist. I felt sorry for her after reading her bio, I’m like if this is true this girl is a third grader. So I tried to lay off her because somebody stepped to me and was like, ‘yo you need to leave that little girl alone she is not well’.
Parlé: Do you know someone slapped her because of Fabulous?
Nelly: Let me tell you something, with the shit that she’s doing, she’s lucky that’s all she got right there. I heard when Superhead was putting out her book she was getting death threats and you really didn’t see her. Kats Stacks doing this shit and she going out to the clubs where these people’s people are. I’m like that’s crazy. I was getting people like ‘Yo Nelly’, but I was like please don’t do nothing to that girl.
Parlé: But you guys, not you, but rappers in general go out and deal with these groupies. How do you guys expect these things not to happen?
Nelly: Again I think it is what people want to believe. People want to believe this. This is what’s making it so easy for her to continuously have a stage a platform because people want to believe it. It’s just an automatic belief. Now I’m not saying that all her escapades that she is talking about but I know for this one right here. If I know what she is saying about me is not true then I can’t imagine the other shit because I don’t even live in Miami.
Parlé: So what is the deal with you and Ashanti. There have been rumors that you guys broke up?
Nelly: I mean to say we broke up is to be a rumor that we were together. It aint about being on it, aint about being over, what it’s about is she’s doing her project, I’m doing my project. She’s cool and she probably thinks I’m cool.
Parlé: Are you planning on getting married in the near future?
Nelly: What? I mean I think eventually everyone probably wants to be married at some point.
Parlé: But we’re talking about Nelly.
Nelly: But right now I’m focused on a lot. I’m a workaholic because I don’t want to not work. When you come from basically nothing and you have so much good things happening for you sometimes you have to sacrifice. So sometimes a relationship is what falls cause it’s not fair that, that person has to fit inside your life or you have to fit inside that person’s life.
Parlé: Do you feel that rappers are responsible for the break-down of black marriage? In that young black men look at black women as sex objects not women because you guys put out these images.
Nelly: What it is, is ya’ll aint showing them the whole Nelly. Ya’ll meaning the press. Ya’ll only showing the Nelly that going to do the TIP Drill video, ya’ll not showing the Nelly at the toy drive, or at the hospital, or in the schools, or in his board meetings. Ya’ll showing the Nelly that’s either coming out of the jail, or at the strip club with a bunch of ones on his side and it just so happens that a stripper behind him. That’s the one you want to put on the front page. It ain’t the rappers we don’t own papers, we don’t own television stations we only can do what ya’ll want us to do.
Parlé: So, you think Rappers get a bad rap?
Nelly: I think rappers are the fall guy because some of us don’t have the wits to point the finger back. The thing is when you take a whole generation and whip them out, string the mothers out and put the fathers in jail—the reason I know respect is because my father is the mediator between me and my grandfather. I’m the mediator between my son and my father because I’m old enough to understand where my father is coming from and young enough to understand what my kid is trying to do. When you whip out the mediator the kids run wild and the old people are scared of them.
Parlé: What made you start the charity “4sho4kids”?
Nelly: 4sho4kids is something we all did to give back to our community in St. Louis. We did a literacy program, children with Down Syndrome, we have a read to achieve program we also have our tutor program where Middle school students tutor grade school, High School tutors Middle school, and College kids tutor High School. We’ve also fed over 1500 families and the “Just Us for Jackie” where we get people signed up for bone marrow stem cell registry.
Parlé: And you gave away scholarships to High School kids?
Nelly: College, they have to meet certain requirements as far as the scholarships that we give every year at our black & white ball.
Images by Peter Garcia for Parlé Magazine
Written by Shanique Byrd
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