The Nellyville tour is gettin' hotter by the day.
Not only is the itinerary growing, the lineup is heating up with the addition of Ashanti.
"She's on fire," Nelly said, grinning. "It was only right."
Taking a break from playing piano in his Beverly Hills hotel suite on Tuesday, the St. Louis rapper discussed his first headlining tour, which will also feature the Cash Money Millionaires and Mario (see "Nelly Making It Hot Herre And Therre With Fall U.S. Tour").
"Last year, when we were on the 'TRL' jump-off, we had a few things, the four-wheelers and the stage and a few pyro," Nelly recalled. "On this joint, we have to bring it. We want to put on a show people are going to remember. Don't get us wrong, we're not ones to run out with 500 people onstage, dancing monkeys over here, clowns over there. We're going to do it our way, but it's going to be a step up from what people are used to from us, stage-wise.
"We got a few things as far as the big stage and pyro," he continued. "We're building a fan-friendly set — they're involved. We can almost reach out and touch them from a lot of different angles."
Nelly is still conceptualizing the show, but he said he and the St. Lunatics will step up the theatrics the way Eminem and D12 have done for their headlining slot on the Anger Management Tour.
The rapper, whose "Hot in Herre" has become the unofficial summer anthem for 2002, has purposely given himself several months to plan a tour for Nellyville, which kicks off September 26 in Worcester, Massachusetts.
"I like going out in the fall," he explained. "I don't like going out in the summer. I like to go out when everybody's back to school. People get more excited. You're in school and you're asking everybody, 'Yo, you going to the big concert?' It's a big thing."
While Nelly and the Cash Money Millionaires have considerable experience on the road, Ashanti is still new to the game. That could explain why she's planning to have some help during her show.
"I'm going to bring people onstage, get some crowd participation going on," the singer said at Sunday's Teen Choice Awards (see "Nelly Outsurfs 'NSYNC, Ja Rule, Usher At Teen Choice Awards").
Ashanti, who is contemplating whether to follow-up her red-hot debut with a remix collection or a studio album, will use the trek to promote her third single, "Baby."
Nelly, meanwhile, will be hyping his second single, "Dilemma," which features Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland.
"I heard the beat and started playing around with it, writing stuff. And then I wrote the whole song out," Nelly explained. "Then I changed it and put a girl part in it. Then I thought, 'Whoa, I need a girl for this.' "
Rowland happened to be working on her solo album (which will also feature "Dilemma"), so the timing was perfect. And when Nellyville was released, radio programmers flocked to the track, prompting Nelly to release it as the second single (see "Nelly Hit Forces Change In Plans For Destiny's Child LPs").
Before he heads out on tour, Nelly will shoot a video for "Dilemma" with Rowland and guest star Patti LaBelle.
"Patti gets to play Kelly's mom," Nelly said before hinting at why he really wanted her on the set. "She loves to cook, I love to eat — it's a perfect match."
"Dilemma" focuses on the would-be perfect match of Nelly and Kelly, except one thing — she has a child with another man and doesn't want to leave him. The St. Louisville line slugger said to expect to see their on-wax woes dramatized for the small screen.
"I think we gonna pretty much story line it," he said. "Just smooth it out a little bit. Something different than what I'm used to [doing in videos]. As far as me, I have girls all the over the place, party atmosphere. ... I think on this one is it's gonna be a little more smooth. No helicopters, no big explosions, just the song."
While Nelly may say nay to bombs going off onscreen, he doesn't rule out fireworks in the form of a love scene between himself and Rowland.
"You never know, pimp. I don't want to give it away. We got my dirty Benny Boom directing, so ain't no telling what he got on his mind."