That Nelly Sound. Cornell Haynes Jr. made an unexpected career move this summer: He guest-hosted Staci Static’s radio show on Hot 104.1 WHHL-FM. We’re still hearing plenty of Nelly over the radio these days, with “Just a Dream”—the rapper’s first Billboard top-10 single since 2006 and a hint of things to come. Nelly 5.0 is due for release November 16, same day as the St. Lunatics’ City Free. “This album is basically more melodic than any other album I’ve done,” he says. “You get that Nelly sound.”
This marks the 10th anniversary of country grammar. What’s your proudest achievement so far?
To still be relevant, to still be here... That was my reason for living in St. Louis. You get some people who think there are things you should have been doing for the city, instead of talking about what you have done for the city. [But] I wanted every spotlight that I had to shine on St. Louis. I knew that wouldn’t have happened if I moved away.
You helped put Midwest rap on the map. Do you hear that from the rest of the industry?
Don’t get it twisted, because there are more people in St. Louis that support me than don’t... But it’s funny, because if you step outside of St. Louis, you can’t say St. Louis without saying Nelly. They’re going to say Nelly before they say the Cardinals or the Rams. That’s like, “Wow.” So it’s a little disheartening sometimes when people in your own city don’t want to give you the same credit as people on the outside... There wasn't no record labels beating down St. Louis' door, trying to get talent, until these guys came down. It's crazy, but it's a beautiful thing.
What’s your favorite hit?
“Country Grammar.” It was like the fuse to the bomb.
It’s been an emotional time for you. your half-brother, City Spud, was released from prison and your cousin, Michael Johnson, was killed. How’d you stay focused on the music?
That’s the thing that you draw yourself into. I don’t show sadness and things like that well. I try to keep it to myself until a later time when I’m ready to deal with it.
How long do you think you’ll keep rapping?
As long as I feel like I’m still making contributions to the game and I’m still being heard.
You co-own the Charlotte Bobcats. Any chance you’ll bring an NBA team here?
Hopefully one day. You’re kind of giving my hopes and plans away