With a genre-defying discography that includes “Hot in Herre,” “Dilemma” and his latest smash, “Just a Dream,” it is easy to see why Billboard Magazine recognized Nelly as the #3 artist of the decade (2000-2009). Taking his best-selling and chart-topping performances on the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 into consideration, there is no refuting Nelly’s impact on the current generation of music entertainers. Even more impressive: this decade-long journey all began in St. Louis, Missouri – a city that is better-known for its jazz, blues and rock music exports.
On November 15, 2010, the “rapper-preneur” will release his fifth studio album, which has been aptly titled “5.0.” In support of this effort, Nelly managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on his entry into the rap game, the legacy of M.C. Hammer, and the “business” side of the music business.
Over the past decade, you have become known for more than your rap skills. As you transitioned from being known as Nelly, the rapper, into Nelly, the businessman, what do you consider to be the biggest professional lesson that you learned along the way?
When you're working a business, it is only going to be as successful as the effort you put into it. Now, don’t get it twisted. It’s not like I haven’t made mistakes. But I have been fortunate enough to have done so many other things correctly, that my mistakes kind of get covered up. That doesn’t happen for everybody. Some people make mistakes and they never get a chance to recover. So I’ve been really fortunate. It’s not like I’m a genius or doing anything that's really outside the line. But I’ve just been really fortunate to learn from my mistakes and being able to know what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. I like to walk that straight line. When it comes to business, I don’t really mess with anything that has me stepping outside that line. And so far, so good, basically.
Over this decade-long journey, what do you consider to be the “tipping point” or “breaking point” in your move for financial and corporate independence? Most of the time, when people think about the music business, they tend to focus on the “music” rather than the business?
To be honest, I’ve been thinking like that since I was a kid. I’ve been fairly independent for a long time. My parents got divorced when I was probably like six years old. And neither one of them could afford to keep me on their own. So I bounced around a lot and I moved and lived with different people. I’ve been to like eight different schools. So when you do that, you get used to bouncing around and just making it work.