Another great example is the man 50 brought down, Ja Rule. Nelly does not exactly fall into the same category as these guys, but he did experience the same speedy rise and failure to innovate. The difference is that Nelly saved himself by realizing his audience has always been club-goers, whereas Ja Rule and 50 Cent tried to market their club music to a gangsta rap audience and couldn’t justify that.
Nellyville has relatively the same formula as its predecessor, Country Grammar. Nelly is equipped with radio-friendly beats that serve as a backdrop to his sing-song flow, but this formula serves as a double-edged sword. While the songs that work consist of this patented formula, sometimes his serious content is overlooked because it is packaged as a radio hit.
This is apparent on the title track, by far the best song on this album and quite clever lyrically. Nelly regales us with a description of his fantasy town that contains a light dose of social commentary, but it’s overlooked because of his flow. In it he comments on teenage pregnancy, poverty and pitfalls of the ghetto that would garner acclaim for lyricists such as Talib Kweli or Kanye West, but it only earned the more commercial Nelly a radio hit.
The production on this album is fine, mainly serving to provide radio-friendly beats. Surprisingly, many of these beats have a heavy guitar influence (“The Gank,” “#1,” “Say Now”) with “#1” featuring Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. Nelly mainly stays with in-house producer Jay-E, but brings in The Neptunes for the summer jam “Hot In Herre,” which fits both artists’ trademark styles nicely.
The other big name is Just Blaze, who allows Nelly to remix his original “Roc The Mic” This beat is an exciting upbeat ensemble that completely outshines the MCs such as Beanie Sigel, Freeway and Murphy Lee. However, the guests bring nothing stellar to the table and Nelly makes the biggest blunder of all when he attempts to diss the great KRS-One. Not only is the idea of Nelly dissing KRS-One laughable, but his actual verse is just as ludicrous, as it uses the same cadence and attitude as “Hot In Herre.” Nelly also fails to address anything substantial regarding the Boogie Down Production member, except for the fact that he hasn’t had a hit in awhile. This is a moot point because KRS-One was always about spreading knowledge, not making money, and proves the two artists aren’t even in the same solar system.
Sadly, this album is relatively predictable, and the singles give you a good guideline as to whether you will like the rest of the tunes. Most of Nelly’s songs revolve around excessive spending, and tunes like “#1,” “Oh Nelly” and “Pimp Juice” succeed, but most of the rest just blend together. This album is also in no way assisted by the annoying skits featuring Cedric The Entertainer. If Nelly’s upbeat persona attracts you, by all means buy the album, but in pretty much any other instance I’d advise you to save your fifteen dollars.