By Gil Kaufman
NASHVILLE — Nelly isn't nervous about performing on Wednesday night's 2013 CMT Music Awards for the first time. Yeah, he's best known for thumping hits like "Grillz," "Air Force Ones" and "Hot in Herre," but the St. Lunatic general is, honestly, just as comfortable with the country drawling, acoustic guitars and pickup truck love in his hit collabo with Florida Georgia Line, "Cruise," as he is with Jermaine Dupri beats.
"I love country music," said Nelly on Monday, just two days before he's set to take the stage with FGL to perform "Cruise" on the broadcast, which will air live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CMT. "I've always had a spot in my heart for country music. People know that. If you've been a fan of Nelly for a long time, you've definitely heard my music, you've heard a lot of my collaborations. From the beginning with Tim McGraw and moving things forward. I love the stories. I love the passion, I love the feeling in it. Other than R&B I think, for me, it's the next [most] soulful music there is."
The video for the remix is packed with acres of dirt road, and bikini models, and Nelly said he hopes that same energy will come across from the stage. "I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I hope it does [get crazy]. I hope they don't hold back because I'm here. I want something off the chain, I want something for the books."
Nelly said FGL had already been doing so well with the single in its original version, which, as a fan of country, and any kind of hit music, he'd heard many times. "You listen to hits, no matter where they are," he said. And, because they're on the same label, the idea was floated that they join forces and do a special remix of "Cruise" to see if they could cross the song over to an even bigger audience.
"I was like, 'I think it will be dope. I think we should try to switch it up a little bit," he said of the remix's bigger whomp. "Speed the tempo up a little bit [and] see where I can find a pocket." So, they sent him the song and said that if he had any ideas he should let them know. He did and the rest is #1 hit history.
"I don't think anybody else could have written a better rap. It just sounds like Nelly," said FGL band member Brian Kelley. "It sounds like something he would have done on his own and fortunately we got to be a part of it. He brought a total new thing to it."