Universal - 2002 - 74 minutes
Cornell Haynes Jnr - Nelly to you and me - was once a talented baseball player hitting home-runs left, right and centre in St Louis. Sometime later, he opted to form the St Lunatics rap crew with high school friends Kyjuan, City Spud, Murphy Lee, Ali and Jason. Although the St Lunatics enjoyed a local underground hit in 1996 with 'Gimme What Ya Want', they failed to persuade any major labels to offer them a contract.
It was major labels all the way when Nelly decided to pursue a solo career in 1999, signing to Universal Records. His background and regional popularity immediately powered him to the top of the Billboard charts, quashing Eminem and making Nelly the name on everyone's lips. In a generation of pop-soaked charts, Nelly seized the elements of hip-hop and sprinkled the catchy hooks of pop music over track after track in a move that saw his 'Country Grammar' album go nine times platinum in the US.
What about the follow-up? Well, 'Nellyville' is still firmly rooted in his Midwest neighbourhood, giving the finger to the "bling bling" boyz of major hip-hop communities of New York and LA. Now that he's got your attention, Nelly once again says it like it is and doesn't beat about the bush with nonsense lyrics. This is where he succeeds in making you listen - to tracks like 'Dem Boyz' and 'Pimp Juice' - as you bounce and nod your head in firm agreement. Nelly has a knack for party anthems and 'Hot in Herre' is a gem of a club-tune, produced by the very-much-in-demand Neptunes.
'Dilemma' features Kelly from Destiny's Child and is a likely candidate for the bedroom song on this album - but that's all the bump'n'grind you're gonna get. The rest lacks the crispness of 'Hot In Herre' and fails to keep you on your feet. The album could have done with more of the right juice but the pumps at Nellyville are starting to run dry. Better call the Neptunes back quick. Bling bling.
Tracklisting: Nellyville - Gettin' It Started - Hot In Herre - Dem Boyz - Oh Nelly - Pimp Juice - Air Force Ones - In The Store - On The Grind - Dilemma - Splurge - Work It - Roc The Mic (remix) - The Gank - 5000 - #1 - CG2 - Say Now - F**k It Then - Stick Out Ya Wrist (UK bonus track)