Growing Up and Early Career In St. Louis:
Nelly was born Cornell Iral Haynes, Jr. November 2, 1974 in Austin, Texas. He moved with his mother to University City, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, when he was a teenager. While in high school Nelly formed the rap group St. Lunatics. The group had a regional hit single "Gimmie What You Got" in 1996, but they failed to land a recording contract. The group decided that the best approach was to support Nelly as a solo artist. He soon was signed to a contract with Universal.
The St. Lunatics:
The St. Lunatics are a rap group formed in 1993 by Nelly, his brother City Spud, and three other rappers. After Nelly was signed as a solo artist with Universal, the group received a recording contract as well. While Nelly was working on his debut solo release Country Grammar, City Spud was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for robbery. The group and individual group members have appeared on a wide range of recordings by Nelly. Their first album as a group Free City was released in 2001 and reached #3 on the Billboard album chart. A second album City Free is expected in late 2010.
Nelly's 'Country Grammar' Breakthrough:
Nelly's first solo single for Universal, "Country Grammar (Hot Sh*t)," appeared in early 2000. It was based around a children's clapping game song "Roller Coaster." The song turned into a top 10 pop hit dominating radio airwaves over the summer. Consequently, when the album Country Grammar was released in June it debuted at #3 then eventually topped the album chart. Country Grammar was ultimately certified nine times platinum and included the top 3 pop smash "Ride Wit' Me."
Nelly's second album Nellyville, released in 2002, was preceded by the chart-topping hit "Hot In Herre." The song was produced by the Neptunes and incorporated the hook from the Chuck Brown go-go classic "Bustin' Loose." Nellyville debuted at #1 and the single "Dilemma" featuring Kelly Rowland replaced "Hot In Herre" at the top. The album was certified six times platinum and included the #3 pop hit "Air Force Ones."
Nelly's Top Hit Singles:
- 2000 - "Country Grammar (Hot Sh*t)" #7
- 2001 - "Ride Wit Me" featuring City Spud #3
- 2002 - "Hot In Herre" #1
- 2002 - "Dilemma" featuring Kelly Rowland #1
- 2002 - "Air Force Ones" featuring Kyjuan, Murphy Lee, and Ali #3
- 2003 - "Shake Ya Tailfeather" with P. Diddy and Murphy Lee #1
- 2004 - "My Place" featuring Jaheim #4
- 2004 - "Over and Over" featuring Tim McGraw #3
- 2005 - "Grillz" featuring Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp, and Brandi Williams #1
- 2010 - "Just a Dream" #3
'Sweat / Suit':
In between album releases, Nelly was back on top of the pop singles chart in 2003 with "Shake Ya Tailfeather" from the soundtrack to the movie Bad Boys II. In September of 2004 Nelly released a pair of albums. Sweat was rap-oriented and it opened at #2 on the album chart. Suit was more oriented to R&B and it opened at #1. Suit included the singles "My Place" and "Over and Over" which both reached the top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ultimately the two albums each were certified platinum. They were re-released as a complilation Sweatsuit in 2005 with the new single "Grillz which went to #1.
Three years and multiple delays elapsed before the release of Nelly's next album Brass Knuckles in 2008. The lead single "Party People" featuring Fergie limped to #40 on the pop singles chart and would be the only top 40 hit from the album. Brass Knuckles only managed its way to #3 on the album chart and a gold certification.
As 2010 approached and Nelly prepared his next studio album Nelly 5.0, the future did not look bright for his commercial success. However, the midtempo hip hop ballad "Just a Dream" struck a chord with pop fans. It swiftly became Nelly's first top 10 hit in five years. The album is due to hit stores in November 2010.