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These days, it's not unusual for a hip-hop artist to turn entrepreneur. P. Diddy goes designer with his own line of clothing and starts his own record label Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group. Outkast got their own outlandish clothes label, and Jay Z, started the now flourishing Roc-a-Fella Records. The list goes on…Nelly, though, is where the juice is…
He starts Pimp Juice, an energy drink that sold over a million units in its first quarter. Of course, he also owns his own clothing line (Vokal and Apple Bottoms) and a brand new record label, Derrty Entertainment as well. Also let's not forget that Nelly, the 'rapper' recently became part owner of an NBA team the Charlotte Bobcats…isn't that every black man's dream?
By way of giving back, he also started two social organizations: one for underprivileged kids and the other for leukemia patients. Talking about the entire game, Nelly says, 'I idolize P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, Master P and people who have been able to have success outside of music. It shows people that you're not just a dumb-ass rapper. We all want to go outside of music and make something happen so we can stop rapping.' Nelly is no dumb-ass rapper; he's as dynamic as they come.
Nelly has got his finger in so many pies that he really does taste life in a big way. The most surprising part however, is that through it all, the music takes priority. And what better way of stating this than releasing two brand new, original albums. Unintended as it was, he confirms, 'Honestly I went into the whole project looking to do one joint. Then I just started doing so much material that I thought it would be hot to do something different.’

That's the truth…this September, Nelly releases Sweat and Suit, two entirely separate albums, recorded…well, under record time. 'I probably did the bulk of it in about a month, month and a half. From there I was just adding pieces here and there...' and it's not impossible to believe given that on the album, he's worked with every big name around. Among the biggest being Christina Aguilera on the song, 'Tilt Ya Head Back' about which he says, 'We were just in the studio chillin', having fun because the song is so up-tempo. Christina's voice is incredible; so we just really cut it lose. It was a bit different for both of us because it was our first time working together. We had to feel each other out, but after a while we just had a ball.'
So much of a ball it seems that among the numerous surprises dropped is also the unlikely team up with country star Tim McGraw. McGraw and Nelly got to know each other through celebrity basketball games that they played and decided that it was time to take the relationship a step further, result being the song 'Over and Over'.
There's also Missy Elliot featuring on the song, 'Playa' and 'Stephen Marley' supporting on the song 'River Don't Runnn'. Other names who worked with Nelly also include Outkast's Big Boi on the song 'She Don't Know My Name' and Snoop Dogg. There's also legend Ron Isley who is among Nelly's favorites and makes the time to drop in, 'He's a legend,' goes Nelly, 'He went from records to 8-tracks, to tape decks, to CD's and now to MP3's. He's been there for all that. To be able to have him relay certain things to me about the game is a blessing.'
The very prominent production duo, the Neptunes, worked with Nelly on the hugely successful song, 'Hot In Here'. This time around it's a song called 'Flap Your Wings' and Nelly is nothing but accolades as far as this collaboration goes, 'It comes from working with talent that's not afraid. With me and them we'll go in and ain't no telling where we'll go with it.' He adds, 'We have Unlimitations on each other. They're unbelievable. Their talent is just crazy and they're not afraid to try new things.’
Then again it's not only famous names that Nelly chooses to associate himself with, he has also worked with the lesser-known likes of rap acts like Dirty South, David Banner, and the Bigga Figga. The reason why he works with them: 'Because I appreciate what they do. Just because they are not out there selling three, four, five million records that doesn't mean that their albums aren't banging.'

Sweat and Suit are two distinctly different albums, Sweat has more club joints and street oriented songs,' says Nelly. It's an album that shows Nelly in a far more dance and funky kind of way. As the name suggests it concentrates on shaking it up and moving things about. 'Suit', lead by the first single, My Place with R&B singer Jaheim, on the other hand is more about, 'the grown and sexy', an album that focuses on the smooth and groovy, tailor-made for the mature lover. Much like Outkast's superbly successful, Speakerboxxx / The Love Below, Nelly's duo also seem to cater to two different moods. Only this time it exposes not two (as in Outkast's case) but one individual's entire spectrum of thought and experience.

You can read the rest of our feature on Nelly in the September 2004 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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