February 17, 2011

No Longer ‘Just a Dream,’ Nelly to Play at Cornell

Print More

St. Louis rapper Cornell Haynes, Jr., better known as Nelly, will headline Slope Day 2011, the Slope Day Programming Board announced on Thursday. Opening acts for Slope Day are yet to be determined, according to SDPB.

After more than a decade of hip-hop stardom, Nelly has become a cultural icon over the course of his career, first blowing speakers with his 2000 solo debut Country Grammar, which peaked at number seven on Billboard. After releasing a steady stream of hits throughout the decade, Nelly released 5.0 in 2010. The album’s lead single, “Just A Dream,” reached number three on Billboard.

Nelly’s Southern twang and tongue-twisting verses, products of his St. Louis roots, have come to define his career. With hooks that stick in your ear and layers of sound-blanketing, crisp, aggressive beats, Nelly has established himself as one of the steadiest and most innovative hip-hop artists of our generation.

While lacking the lyrical depth of Jay-Z or the controversial brilliance of Kanye, Nelly is widely regarded as one of the first rappers to create a brand name for himself. Let’s not forget the sweet nectar that was “Pimp Juice” — Nelly’s personal elixir that he described as “anything that attracts the opposite sex; it could be money, fame, or straight intellect; it don’t matter! Pimp Juice is color blind; you find it works on all colors, creeds and kinds; from ages 50 right down to nine.”

Straight. Intellect.

Nelly is a master of fascinating the public, usually through his uncanny eye for marketing and media provocation. “Air Force Ones,” a single from 2000, reintroduced and reinvigorated the classic shoe brand simply with his endorsement. His number one hit from the same year, “Hot in Herre,” offended many a mom when Nelly suggested we just “take off all our clothes.”

Signing Nelly to this year’s Slope Day comes as one of the safer and stronger decisions we have seen from the SDPB. He brings a star-status deeply entrenched in our generation, a long slew of singable and danceable tracks. Possibly most importantly, he has remained relevant thanks to the rabid popularity of “Just A Dream” — another recent hit.

“[Nelly] is a much more established artist, whereas in the past we’ve gone after up-and-comers to try and get our value’s worth.” SDPB chairwoman Kate Tucci ’11 explained. “A lot of the reason we went with Drake last year is that he was supposed to be releasing a new album in March, he was going to have a bunch of new singles, and everything just kept getting pushed further and further back. Nelly has a current single on the radio that people seem to really enjoy.”

Nelly will bring a style that, whether you like it or not, played a part in those gloriously awkward years of adolescence — humming “Ride Wit Me” through your braces, practicing your high-school Spanish with “E.I.” — it’s all there.

Most importantly, it’s the music that will creep through your drunken stupor to spark recognition in that beer-addled brain of yours. When “Hot in Herre” drops on the Slope in May, I expect it to be greeted with a cacophonous chorus of “OH, DUDE” and hysterical screams. And that, my friends, is something the Pussycat Dolls could never do.

Peter Jacobs, Sun arts and entertainment editor, is the selections director for SDPB. He contributed no reporting or editing to this story.

Original Author: Graham Corrigan