Q&A: Version 5.0
Nelly drives home another successfull album.
It’s been ten years since Nelly first hit the music scene. His freshman album, “Country Grammar,” catapulted him to hip-hop superstar status and he hasn’t slowed since. Now this multi-Grammy-winning rapper is returning with his sixth album, “5.0,” releasing November 16 and has already scored a Billboard Top 10 hit with “Just a Dream,” which went platinum in October. I spoke with the personable and funny star to get the scoop on his highly anticipated new album.
ALIVE: What was your experience like returning to the studio for your sixth album?
Nelly: It was a different project, I guess, considering it had been a while since my last album dropped. It was good just being in a studio creating. And the process was business as usual, but I worked with a few different people this time that I never worked with before, like Don Vito, who produced “1000 Stacks,” Jim Jonsin who produced “Just a Dream” and the “Gone” song with me and Kelly [Rowland], also Dr. Luke who produced “Move Your Body” with me, Akon and T-Pain.
ALIVE: What was the inspiration for “5.0”?
Nelly: With the title, if you know anything about a 5.0 [Mustang GT], then you know it’s a classic, it’s got strength, muscle and power. And that’s what I tried to do with this album. The album is a little lighter than probably any other album outside “Suit,” because that album was more melodic, where “Sweat” was a little more traditional rap. Now this album is definitely more melodic, but it definitely has the feel and the vibe of Nelly.
ALIVE: In a recent interview you said that “doubt is a fuel” when you’re working on a new project. “Brass Knuckles” had a mixed reception in 2008; were you eager to prove something with “5.0”?
Nelly: I think every artist goes into an album thinking you’re going to succeed. But for me, I think it’s rough as an artist just starting out. This album release feels like when I first came out. You’re always gonna have people saying, “He’s not going to do it this time,” or “He’s not going to succeed” or “It’s over,” but I play better from the underdog position. It’s kind of like a double-edged sword in a sense; our first few records were amazing and successful—and I do feel fortunate for that—but damn, now I’m getting compared to myself.
ALIVE: It’s been ten years since “Country Grammar” came out, and since then, you’ve earned many awards and success and ventured into other projects. What have you been most proud of?
Nelly: Being a parent. Just doing what I’m doing and still having the kind of relationship with my kids. Being busy most of the time, I didn’t want my kids to not know me, but I think that’s what I’m most proud of. I know it’s rough on them because I am who I am and they don’t always get to have their daddy at their every beck and call, but they still have the same love as if I’m there every day.
ALIVE: I know that this past summer in St. Louis, you had a temporary gig as host on Hot 104.1. What was that like?
Nelly: It was cool—it basically gave me the freedom to have Nelly radio. I filled in for Staci Static while she was on maternity leave. She just had a baby, so congratulations to her. But I thought it would be something fun to do for the penny. My salary went to charity, my Jes Us 4 Jackie Foundation, to get people signed up in the bone marrow/stem cell registry in honor of my sister who passed away in 2005 from cancer.
ALIVE: What a great thing for your foundation and a different venture for you as well. So, as a host, who is a dream interview for you?
Nelly: Oh man, I would’ve loved to have gotten Michael Jackson to come in and just do a little [singing] “he he” ” on the show. Just that. That’s all I would have needed and then I’d be like, “I’m done!”
St. Louis native and Grammy-winning rapper, Nelly
Photo credit: Photo by Marc Baptiste; Album photo courtesy of Universal Motown Records.