HOUSTON — Wednesday in Houston was all about getting the routines down pat. At the University of Houston, the Carolina Panthers were going through some pretty intense practices, while miles away, the New England Patriots were working out all the kinks at the training facilities of the Houston Texans, which just so happens to be doubling as the MTV compound this week.
While Tom Brady and company were going over receiver routes and tackle assignments under a huge bubble at the facility, several yards away, hip-hop's shiny-suit man was showing he could air out the pigskin too.
"Why y'all never invite me to 'Rock 'N Jock'?" P. Diddy asked a group of MTV executives standing on the Texans practice field. Diddy, Nelly and a group of dancers were going over their performance for the MTV-produced Super Bowl halftime show. During a short break in rehearsals, P.D. and Nelly decided to play on the field.
"See, that's why he's a enter-tain-nerrr," Nelly laughed with a wide grin after Diddy dropped a pass. The king of St. Louis, however, was also unsuccessful at making a catch when Diddy had him run a route. Nelly will be quick to tell you, though, that P.D. overthrew the ball.
"That's why I need [St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt] Warner," Nelly kept joking.
He and Diddy may not jibe on the field, but the blinging pair do share a chemistry onstage.
"We're trying," Nelly said later of the rehearsal. "I think everybody's here for the same purpose, and that's to have a good show. I mean, I'm working with one of the best performers from my era. So I'm just learning, basically. I'm sliding in my info here and there, but I'm learning."
While Diddy may have been in the music game longer than Nelly, the captain of the St. Lunatics is more tenured when it comes to Super Bowl performances.
"I pretty much know how these rehearsals are going to go, but he's definitely the showman," Nelly added. "We're gonna put together a good show.
"That first one is a shock to me still," the gold-toothed slang master added about being a part of Super Bowl XXXVI. "To be up there with Aerosmith, it was an overall [meeting] of different music. You had Aerosmith; 'NSYNC, who were the heartthrobs; Mary J., the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul; and this little kid from St. Louis who was as happy as a runaway slave to be up there."
When rehearsals first started, Diddy and Nelly weren't as enthused about what was going on onstage: Their dancers weren't providing enough fire.
"Are they dancing for real?" Diddy asked the girls' choreographer, Divine Stevens, as he, Stevens and Nelly stood on the field looking up at the ladies onstage.
"Act like Daddy's here," Puff yelled up at the girls with a slight grin on his face.
"Y'all have to pop that," he continued, doing a gyration to give them some inspiration. "We wants perfection. Come on now."
After a couple of more times running through the moves, the ladies garnered claps from Diddy and Nelly but looked a little tired. When it seemed like their energy level was not there after Stevens called for "one more time," Nelly gave them a pep talk.
"Come on, ladies," Nelly told them as he walked closer to the stage. "This is the Super Bowl; this is the biggest day of your life."
When it was time for Nelly and Diddy to get up there with the dancers, Nelly showed that he, too, could move. He wasn't shy about demonstrating the St. Louis-birthed mono dance when it was his time to take the mic.
"What's that thing you do?" Diddy later asked about a two-step Nelly did earlier in the rehearsal.
"Ah, that's my sh--," answered Nelly, all too happy to show off some more moves. "I'll go there now."
When rehearsals finally ended, Nelly explained that he was in a better mood than usual because he knows that after Sunday, he'll be forever remembered — again.
"Just being a part of history," Nelly determined about what he wanted to take away from Super Bowl week. "That's what you doing when you do stuff like this. Even when the game goes down in the books and people play the game over and over, you're a part of that. It's more historical than anything. For me to be here for the second go-round, it's like whoa!"
Hangin' in H-Town — News and Notes From the Super Bowl:
- On Wednesday Janet Jackson got to meet up with the bandmembers from the University of Houston and Texas Southern University who'll be performing with her on Sunday (see "Janet Jackson's Super Bowl Show Promises 'Shocking Moments' "). Everyone congregated in the Pasadena area of Texas for a four-hour rehearsal. Janet and the choreographer made some on-the-spot alterations to the set. Meanwhile, the drum line from both schools had a 25-minute jam session and impressed Ms. J. A full-run dress rehearsal is scheduled for Thursday at Reliant Stadium.
- N.E.R.D. and Puddle of Mudd will perform on Friday (January 30) at a concert for MTV's "Rock 'N Jock" at Houston's Verizon Wireless Theater. The show will air on MTV at 9 p.m. ET, and when the concert goes off-air, P.O.D. will continue to play for the fans in attendance. Cedric "The Entertainer" and Wanda Sykes will host. Ice Cube and Queen Latifah will also be on hand.
- You may have seen glimpses of football icons Emmitt Smith and Donovan McNabb attending the Houston Rockets game against the Sacramento Kings if you watched ESPN SportsCenter. But they left someone out: Nelly. The platinum prince had courtside seats to the game. "I was told to let your feet hit that wood," Nelly joked about having the elite seats.
Super Bowl XXXVIII will air live from Houston's Reliant Stadium on Sunday. Coverage begins at 9 a.m. ET with the special "MTV's TRL at the Super Bowl."
For more on the weekend festivities, check out MTV Super Bowl Weekend.