Whatcha gonna do when hip-hop’s hottest star drops two albums on the same day? It’s Nelly, dude, so buy ’em both.
We’ve had a preview of Sweat and Suit via the double A-side single My Place (from Suit)/Flap Your Wings (from Sweat), which topped the Oz singles chart a couple of weeks ago.
Nelly describes Suit as the more pop-oriented album and My Place is a beautiful soul ballad, with the sweet voice of Jaheim recalling some classic R&B material. Sweat aims more at the clubs and the streets, and Flap Your Wings is a furiously fast dancefloor sensation, full of dark menace and raw sexuality. Both albums contain strong sexual themes, as might be expected from an artist who owns a company called Derrty Entertainment (Nelly’s third album was a compilation of remixes and odd tracks called Da Derrty Versions), but no, there’s nothing nelly about him apart from his name, short for his given name Cornell.
Two other artists whose work projects strong sexual overtones, Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams, make guest appearances on these discs and their smirking bad-boy personas seem offensive compared with Nelly’s refreshingly direct approach (It’s getting hot in here so take off all your clothes, he urged his ladies on his big hit Hot In Herre). Nelly’s inspired use of a star-studded list of guests is a highlight of Sweat and Suit. Sweat’s opening track features one-time Entertainment Tonight host-turned-schlocky concert pianist John Tesh accompanied by a university choir -“ rather dodgy but it works. Tilt Ya Head Back, sampling Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, is graced by the magnificent voice of Christina Aguilera. Missy Elliott is surprisingly mellow on Playa. On the delightful In My Life (from Suit), Nelly scores a major coup by luring rapper-turned-preacher Mase out of his five-year retirement, and on the following track Over And Over he makes spine-tingling use of the voice of country superstar Tim McGraw.
But Nelly’s muse doesn’t need big guest names to shine -“ check out Paradise, Woodgrain And Leather With A Hole and Die For You. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting release in popular music this year.