Nelly is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, entrepreneur, investor, and occasional actor from St. Louis, Missouri.
Nelly began music career with Midwest hip hop group St. Lunatics in 1993 and signed to Universal Records in 1999.
He is best known for his hits as as ‘Country Grammar’ and ‘Dilemma.’
- Full name: Cornell Iral Haynes Jr.
- Born: 2 November 1974, Austin, Texas, United States
- Profession: American rapper, singer, songwriter
- Net worth: US$60 million (2018)
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Nelly was born on 2 November 1974 in Austin, Texas, United States. He is only son of Cornell Haynes and Rhonda Mack.
Nelly father was serving in the Air Force for much of his childhood and, when he was seven, his parents divorced. Haynes moved with his mother from St. Louis to University City, Missouri as a teenager and, while in high school, Nelly formed the St. Lunatics with his friends Ali, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan and Slo’Down, and his half brother City Spud.
The group enjoyed moderate local popularity with their single “Gimme What Ya Got” in 1997. Despite being popular in Missouri and the surrounding areas, the group struggled to achieve success outside of St. Louis.
The rest of the group agreed to let Nelly go solo after a major record deal failed to appear. Later in 1999, Nelly was signed to Universal Music Group by A&R Kevin Law.
Law told HitQuarters that Nelly was largely disliked by the label when he first signed, with the feedback he received from his colleagues on the rapper’s music being “extraordinarily negative”.
Nelly was unusual for being a rapper from the Midwest at a time when hip-hop was dominated by the East Coast, West Coast and the South.
The label used this to their advantage by branding Nelly as a star of the Midwest, hoping to inspire pride in the people of St Louis and the surrounding regions.
Despite the negative feedback he received from the label, Nelly’s debut single, Country Grammar (Hot Shit), was a success, peaking at #7 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK singles chart.
Recognizing Nelly’s potential, the label began to change their mind and allowed work to begin on his debut album. Along with this, the success of Nelly’s debut single opened the door for the St. Lunatics to reunite and join the label shortly after. The label decided to do a solo record with Nelly first and then return to the St. Lunatics the following year.
Under Universal, Nelly began his solo career in the year 2000, with his debut album Country Grammar, of which the featured title-track and the single “Ride wit Me” were top ten hits.
The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to peak at number one. Country Grammar is Nelly’s best-selling album to date, selling over 8.4 million copies in the United States.
His following album, Nellyville, produced the number-one hits “Hot in Herre” and “Dilemma” (featuring Kelly Rowland). Other singles included “Work It” (featuring Justin Timberlake), “Air Force Ones” (featuring Murphy Lee and St. Lunatics), “Pimp Juice” and “#1”.
With the same-day dual release of Sweat, Suit (2004) and the compilation Sweatsuit (2006), Nelly continued to generate many chart-topping hits.
Sweat debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 342,000 copies in its first week. In the same week of release, Suit debuted at number one, selling around 396,000 copies in its first week on the same chart.
Nelly’s fifth studio album, Brass Knuckles, was released on September 16, 2008, after several delays. It produced the singles “Party People” (featuring Fergie), “Stepped on My J’z” (featuring Jermaine Dupri and Ciara) and “Body on Me” (featuring Akon and Ashanti).
In 2010, Nelly released the album 5.0. The lead single, “Just a Dream”, was certified triple platinum in the United States. It included the singles “Move That Body” (featuring T-Pain and Akon) and “Gone” (a sequel to the 2002 single “Dilemma” in collaboration with Kelly Rowland).
Nelly won Grammy Awards in 2003 and 2004 and had a supporting role in the 2005 remake film The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock.
He has two clothing lines, Vokal and Apple Bottoms. He has been referred to by Peter Shapiro as “one of the biggest stars of the new millennium”, and the RIAA ranks Nelly as the fourth best-selling rap artist in American music history, with 21 million albums sold in the United States. On December 11, 2009, Billboard ranked Nelly the number three Top Artist of the Decade.