March 17, 2005

The Pretty Toney Column

Print More

During the 122nd’s regrettable reign of terror, Daze occasionally defied the odds and put out some worthwhile issues. One of the best things ever was when we did that full page review of Nelly’s Sweat/Suit — the double album where Sweat showcased his party side, counterbalanced by the businessman prevalent on Suit — and we had that split page format where one half had the Sweat side of his face and the other his Suit side. I’ll never forget it.

That issue’s stunning graphics alone sparked a national debate that raged onward through December, when Americans everywhere made their year-end album lists. Sweat states bickered with Suit states as our great land hurtled toward a seemingly inevitable second civil war. I’m from Pennsylvania, so I spent most of the year planted firmly on the fence, but I ended up siding with Suit, largely based on the strength of the immaculate “N Dey Say.”

The song’s greatest strength is the skillful sample of Spandau Ballet’s “True,” an epochal song from the loosely defined “eighties music” genre cited throughout Facebook profiles of girls everywhere. The sampling of “True” immediately becomes the song’s sentimental heartbeat, complimented by Nelly’s atypical cooing of the song’s tender lyrics. Six months later, it’s easy to take Nelly’s role as pensive social commentator for granted, but when I first heard “N Dey Say,” I was floored. Remember, before Suit came out, Nelly was known primarily for goodtime party anthems like “Hot in Herre” and “Ride Wit Me.”

The verse where Nelly describes an encounter with a homeless man, in particular, really hit home for me. “I even asked a brother his name/ Where was he from, got kids, and what’s they ages/ He kinda stuttered for a second, he looked surprised/ That anyone would take an interest in his life.” Upon hearing this, I was immediately transported back to a time in my life — third grade — when I was a homeless drug addict desperate for love, affection and crystal meth. I could have used someone as benevolent as Nelly back then.

“N Dey Say” was such a powerful personality transposition that it immediately catapulted Nelly into the upper echelon of pop music chameleons alongside David Bowie, Madonna and Beck. He might sing about tennis shoes and integers, or he might paint a vivid picture of a single mom with two kids that can be interpreted as a metaphor intended to inspire thoughtful discourse about the tragic nature of poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Wow.

Archived article by Ross McGowan
Sun Staff Writer