Considering that US rap legend Nelly hasn’t released an album that’s charted in the UK top 50 since 2008’s Brass Knuckles, he’s managed to maintain a reputation as one of the world’s most popular artists. Having sold millions of albums worldwide since his 2000 debut Country Grammar, a lot of people in their twenties will have grown up with Nelly providing the soundtrack to much of their youth.
So when Musicalize announced that he was to headline one of their shows at London’s indigo at the O2, a set list full of classics from the last fifteen years had to be on the cards and that is exactly what went down.
With Country Grammar classic ‘St Louis’ spurring the crowd into an early frenzy, following lively support slots from East London MC Maxsta, vocalist Clement Marfo and leader of the #BDL Big Narstie, Nelly eventually appeared on stage to his 2008 collaboration with Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie, ‘Party People’. Wearing a black leather jacket, plain white tee and the obligatory sunglasses that the majority of US acts seem to don for UK shows, he was clearly hear to make sure that everyone in attendance had a great time.
Racing through segments of tracks such as ‘E.I’, ‘Air Force Ones’ and ‘Batter Up’, Nelly proved that he hadn’t forgotten his roots and the tracks that had helped him to become a global superstar, even paying homage to two collaborations which further enhanced his reputation in the earlier years of his career, Jagged Edge’s ‘Where The Party At?’ and the *NSync collaboration ‘Girlfriend’.
As nostalgia filled the air, much to the delight of the sing-a-long crowd, Nelly proceeded to send everyone into overdrive with one of his most well known and most celebrated tracks ‘Ride Wit Me’, which proved just how much the crowd knew all his lyrics as every single person belted them out along with him.
Not wanting to alienate newer fans by just playing the classics, such as crowd favourite ‘Hot In Herre’, he did delve into more recent material with ‘Hey Porsche’ and whilst his rapping occasionally resembled the ‘shouty’ sounds of Fatman Scoop rather than the Nelly we know and love and there were moments where he mimed parts of songs, his singing vocals, when he used them, were as good as they ever had been, proving that he’s still got it at the ripe age of forty.
There was also time for the main man to give four girls an experience they’ll never forget as he pulled them from the crowd onto the stage and proceeded to perform the ‘slower’ tracks such as ‘My Place’, ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Dilemma’ to each girl as they either danced with him or sang with him. Not everyone’s cup of tea, ‘skits’ such as these can often be a bit tedious and self indulgent but Nelly kept the crowd involved throughout and maintained the slick pace of the show.
As mentioned, Nelly’s albums haven’t been the biggest sellers in the UK over the last few years, so there’s no telling when the St Louis rapper will be back to bless us with another career spanning set, but if this one was anything to go by, let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.
Over the last few years, Musicalize have continuously brought high profile US artists including Trey Songz, Omarion and T Pain over to our fair shores and with Nelly becoming the latest US act to blow the roof off of South East London’s indigo, long may their success continue.