When [artist id="760701"]Nelly[/artist] first stepped on the scene in 2000, he was hip-hop to the core. There was no denying the street appeal the multiplatinum hitmaker displayed in his debut "Country Grammar" video wearing an oversize baseball cap, baggy jeans and backward football jersey.
The St. Louis standout has exhibited a ton of growth in his 11-year career, and while his 2010 single "Just a Dream" shot to #1 on Billboard's pop charts, it didn't do much to bolster his hard-core rap cred -- and that's OK. Nelly is still in tune with his rap roots. He even presented LL Cool J with his I Am Hip Hop Icon Award at the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards.
"At the end of the day, I am urban, so you can't run from that fact," Nelly told MTV News as he walked the black carpet for the awards show. "At the end of the day, it's another successful brother, stepping and breaking ground for the next brother to come along and do it."
The rhythmic "Just a Dream" was produced by Jim Jonsin and Rico Love, the same team that handled Kelly Rowland's R&B hit "Motivation." Still, it isn't a different formula than the one used on his Patti LaBelle-sampled hit "Dilemma" in 2002. Nelly has always stretched the boundaries of hip-hop, maybe most exemplified on his country duet "Over and Over" with Tim McGraw. The hip-hop star didn't reveal which musical direction he'd be going with his upcoming, yet-untitled seventh album, but it's safe to assume he'll do as he always has. Nelly is willing to let the chips fall where they may.
"You do what works for you," he said. "I think you'd be an idiot to not do what works for you. They don't want me to be smart about it? They wanna see another dumb brother not succeeding because he tried to do something that wasn't smart? That's what they say about us: We don't think first. Well, this brother thinking first. I plan on being here."
What are you expecting from Nelly's new music? Let us know in the comments!