Nelly Staying Put, Even If It Means Signing More Butts

Rap star says he's comfortable with the duties that come with success.

Although it's been "Hot in Herre" these past few weeks, things are always cool in the Nelly camp.

With his multiplatinum Nellyville sitting atop the chart eight weeks after its release and getting even more popular thanks to the single "Dilemma" featuring Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, Nelly's typical day is anything but.

Having just autographed 60 baseballs and called in to dozens of radio stations for brief chats, as usual Nelly doesn't have much time to himself. But unlike many artists who view such promotional obligations as a royal pain, the St. Louis rapper sees them as evidence he's doing something right.

"You do find yourself doing a lot more interviews," he said. "But that just all comes with success, though. The higher you go, the more people want to talk to you. When you're first starting off, there ain't that many people that want to talk to you because ... they don't care, basically. Until you start slowly but surely making a name for yourself, and then more and more people want to holler at you."

On top of the incessant hollering, he's often asked for his autograph. And it's not always ticket stubs and photos that fans present to him for his John Hancock.

"I do get asked for a lot of autographs from women, sometimes in a few strange places," he said with a smirk that gave the impression he wasn't talking about geographical locations. "Butts have always been there," he confessed. "I've been signing butts for a minute."

So you can bet the St. Louis rapper — who's up for two Video Music Awards by himself (Best Male Video and Best Video From a Film) and two for his collaboration with 'NSYNC on their "Girlfriend (Remix)" (Best Group Video and Best Pop Video) — will be attending Thursday's ceremony with Sharpie in hand. (Click for the complete list of 2002 VMA Nominees.) Although he's facing some stiff competition in each category, facing off against the likes of Eminem, Will Smith and Linkin Park, Nelly's thoroughly composed.

"I don't think the pressure's on," he said coolly. "You can only win or lose, and I can't determine that. So there ain't no pressure. I can only do what's in my control. So I can't sweat it. You gotta keep rollin'. If they give it to me, so be it. If they don't, then so be it again. I'm gonna keep doin' my dizzle, though."

Win or lose, Nelly will get his hands on a Moonman at some point in the night, as he's also been chosen to present an award. And while some artists are stricken with sudden bouts of stage fright once they hit the podium and begin to stumble over what's written on the cue cards, Nelly's not sweating that either.

"People have pretty much taken to what I do because I just do me," he said. "I can just be me. If I do myself then they'll know I'm human, too. I think that lets people know that they can sort of reach out and touch you, so to speak, that you are real. Stuff does happen. We do f--- up. We're just like everybody else."

Nelly's first experience at the VMAs hardly went off without a hitch. Two years ago, riding high on the success of his debut album, Country Grammar, Nelly was chosen to perform at the pre-show ceremony but a last-minute cancellation by DMX bumped his set indoors for a primetime slot. To kick off the album's title track, Nelly leaped from his DJ's riser and that's when it all almost came undone.

The impact caused his belt buckle to snap, leaving his shorts adhering to his hips by little more than some loose elastic and wishful thinking.

"Well, I already keep a little sag, you know," he said of his droopy-drawer style, "but that was deep. That was deep." While repeating himself, he nodded his head for emphasis and cracked a slim smile.

But, believe it or not, throughout his rendition of "Country Grammar (Hot ...)," the thought that he'd be accidentally shooting a moon at an audience of millions wasn't at the forefront of his mind.

"Nah, I was just like, 'Man, we on MTV rockin'!' That's all I cared about. I ain't cared how it got down. All I cared about was that we were on MTV doin' our thang. I wasn't trippin' that my ass was hanging out."

Two years later a lot has changed, and people now know him as more than the rapper with the overly slack slacks. As he's proven with his albums and his collaborations, Nelly is "herre" to stay.

"We've been able to show people that we don't plan on going nowhere, period," Nelly said. "Just coming back and just being invited back to such places as the VMAs and being able to perform and be nominated for so many awards, ... it's just like letting people know we're planning on being here for a minute. We got no plans on leaving."

Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the big show at 8 p.m.

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