It's funny how artists pick that all-important, omnipresent first single.
Back in March, Nelly wasn't exactly sure how he wanted to start the buzz on Nellyville, which arrives Tuesday. Obviously, with the release of "Hot in Herre" which was one of the last two songs he recorded for the album he stuck with what works.
"It wasn't even weird," Nelly said of the song. "We still probably weren't gonna use it as a first single. We let a few people hear it, get a little buzz going, and they were feeling it. It was like, 'OK, we did it,' and then I turned around and did another track after that: 'Dilemma.'
"['Dilemma'] was me just sprinkling little things around, just trying to fill it out and being comfortable with being done [recording]," he explained. "A lot of people ain't being comfortable with being done [recording], like, 'Oh man, I should have did one more joint,' or 'Oh, I should have did that.' "
The most important thing Nelly wanted to accomplish on this album was finding different ways to get his story across. He felt his mission was accomplished.
"Trying new things, man," he said. "I think that comes with keeping it fresh. I came in on a new trick, every time I come in, you gotta think of something new. You gotta come back with something different to stay out there."
One of the Band-Aid-wearing MC's experiments was singing. Of course his melodic chorus harmonizing has powered hits such as "Ride Wit Me" and "Country Grammar," but his first crack at singing for an entire song is "The Gank," a tale of getting stuck for his papers. (Getting "ganked" is slang for getting robbed.)
" 'The Gank' is what people probably will be tripping off of," he forecasted. "I did that on purpose, though. If you listen to the beginning of it, we kind of come on joking. That's how it was. Muthaf---ers was just f---ing with me, like, 'N---a, you be sanging anyway, go ahead and hit a tune for us.' They was just really egging me on.
"I can't sing worth a sh--, but as a rapper, I probably can sing for a rapper," he clarified. "I don't call myself no singer, dirty, 'cause I don't wanna disrespect the muthaf---ers who sing."
Even though the song has both a country and R&B feel to it, Nelly is singing the blues.
"Actually people think it's a love song, but it ain't really like a love song," he said. "It's called 'The Gank,' so you gotta remember that. Toward the end of the song, it kind of comes out that I'm looking for this girl and I can't live without this girl. But the reason why is because baby girl done stole everything up out the crib. She done hit the safe, she done hit the connect. I can't go on 'cause I'm stuck. I owe people money."
Nelly's also unlucky in love in "Dilemma." There, Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child sings about wanting to be with him, but wouldn't you know it she already has a man.
"It was cool," he said of the collaboration. "I already knew [Destiny's Child]. We'd been on the "TRL" Tour before, numerous TV and awards shows and just jump-offs like that, so I'm real good friends with them as well as they family. It was just a pleasure, and they're all very beautiful as well as talented. It was just like me doing different stuff. It's like, 'Kelly, OK, damn, nobody's thinking of that.' Baby girl killed it. Her voice is beautiful and she nailed the song."
Nelly nailed "Pimp Juice," at least according to one of his parents. The Lou's biggest representer forgot about needing one girl to ride with and set his sights on enticing flocks of females. Nelly said that his father loved his Curtis Mayfield-like crooning on the song.
"I was feeling that one, dirty," he recalled, letting his gold teeth sparkle. "That Pimp Juice feel. I was just picturing myself in this Cadillac, in my pimp mode. I'm chilling and it's like, 'Oooh, oooh!' It ain't nothing where I go and I sit two or three days sitting and writing. I get into a booth, turn on a beat, let me feel what I'm feeling, let me see what's goin' on.
"I really wasn't gonna put it on the album," he continued. "I did the sh-- just to be f---ing around with it, and people just started loving the sh--, like, 'Yo, this is hot.' My daddy loved it. He was like, 'Oh boy, that's my sh--, that Pimp Juice, oh boy. Yeah, you got one.' "
Don't expect to pick up some Pimp Juice at your local grocery store it's not for consumption, the Grammy winner said.
" 'Pimp Juice' is anything that attracts the opposite sex," he explained. "It could be anything from money, fame or straight intellect, it don't matter. Women got the Pimp Juice too. Come to think about it, dirty, they got more than we do."
For a feature interview with Nelly, check out "Nelly: Still Fly."
Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway