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Nelly: Hip-Hop Heavyweight Hailing from the Lou

Full Name Cornell Iral Haynes Jr.
Birthday November 2, 1974 (age 48)
Birthplace Austin, Texas
Height 5‘ 8"
Relationship Single
Net Worth $60 million (CelebrityNetWorth)
Social Media FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube

From St. Louis Streets to Stardom

Nelly grew up in St. Louis, MO, shaped by the sights and sounds of its inner-city neighborhoods. He started rapping in high school, influenced by Midwestern rappers like Chingy and St. Lunatics. The raw lyricism about street life on tracks like "Greed, Hate, Envy" showed Nelly‘s potential. His charismatic flow caught the ear of an A&R rep who signed him to Universal in 1999.

Breakthrough with Country Grammar

Nelly‘s debut album Country Grammar fused hip-hop and country, mixing genres years before "hick-hop" caught on. The title track‘s country-esque hook dealt with urban struggles over a slick beat – Nelly‘s breakthrough style. His clever rhymes and melodic flow made songs like "E.I." Midwest anthems. The album shot to #3 on the Billboard 200 and scored Nelly a Best New Artist Grammy nod.

Peak Popularity (2000-2004)

Nelly dominated the charts in the early 2000s. His high-energy sets and charm made him a natural fit for summer jams like "Hot in Herre." Collaborations like "Dilemma" with Kelly Rowland expanded his crossover appeal. Simultaneously releasing Sweat and Suit in 2004 cemented Nelly as a hip-hop juggernaut. From his "Band-Aid" face spot to flashy jerseys, Nelly‘s look defined an era.

I‘ll never forget watching Nelly perform hits on TV as a teen, awe-struck by this rap superstar who‘d made it big out of my home region. Seeing him glide through killer choreographed moves in videos like "Flap Your Wings" inspired my own attempts at learning the routines.

Giving Back

Nelly has always given back to his hometown. When his sister Jackie tragically died of leukemia in 2005, Nelly started the 4Sho4Kids Foundation. Its mission is to provide access to healthcare and education for underprivileged children in St. Louis. His philanthropic efforts, from hosting bone marrow drives to funding scholarships, improve thousands of young lives in the Lou.

Songs Every Fan Knows

  • "Country Grammar" – Quintessential Nelly, fusing genres with sing-song flow
  • "Ride Wit Me" – Breezy ode to cruising with your crew
  • "E.I." – Hook celebrating East St. Louis still gets any party hyped
  • "Dilemma" – Sweetly sung megahit duet with Kelly Rowland
  • "Hot in Herre" – Peak tempo strip club anthem
  • "Air Force Ones" – Tribute to the iconic sneaker
  • "Shake Ya Tailfeather" – Uptempo crowd-pleaser with Murphy Lee & P. Diddy
  • "Over and Over" – Crossover country-rap with Tim McGraw
  • "Just a Dream" – Emotive ballad showing softer side

Nelly‘s longevity is a testament to his cultural impact. His records hold up because underneath the flashy videos and commercial appeal lies an origin story that many can relate to. Nelly made it out of the Midwest hood and took St. Louis hip-hop mainstream. Today‘s stars like Jack Harlow owe a debt to Nelly for paving the way. Nearly 20 years later, "Hot in Herre" still makes me bounce!