In the summer of 2000, Cornell "Nelly" Haynes Jr. did the unbelievable. Nelly, an unknown rapper from St. Louis, Missouri, sold over a quarter of a million copies of his debut album, Country Grammar during its first week of release.
On the strength of his first single "Country Grammar (Hot . . .)," the album would spend seven weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart. His subsequent hits, "E.I." and "Ride Wit Me," would push the album to over 9 million units sold domestically. Not bad for a kid no one had ever heard of before. Two years later, in the summer of 2002, Nelly proved to be no one-hit wonder when his sophomore album Nellyville came in at the number one position on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart. That same week, the rapper just happened to be controlling the top slot on ten separate Billboard charts as well.
Nellyville went on to sell over 6 million records domestically and earn its creator two Grammy trophies for the singles "Hot In Herre" (Best Male Rap Solo) and "Dilemma" (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration).
In 2003, he released a platinum-selling remix album, Da Derrty Versions (The Reinvention). As a member of the St. Lunatics, comprised of Nelly, Ali, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan and Slo Down, he released the platinum-selling Free City in 2001. And last year, he picked up another Grammy for his collaboration with Murphy Lee and P. Diddy for "Shake Ya Tailfeather" (Best Rap Performance By A Duo or Group). Cumulatively, Nelly has sold close to 30 million singles/albums worldwide establishing him as one of the top-selling artists of our time. On the music front, Nelly has expanded his role beyond that of just an artist. He is also the CEO of his own label, Derrty Entertainment, a venture with Universal Records that has seen success with release of his remix album and Murphy Lee's platinum-bound solo debut, Murphy's Law.
Nelly's risk taking, growth and diversity should come as no surprise. His career success can be directly linked to his willingness to go out on a limb. From the melodic singsong rap hybrid that has become his trademark to his business ventures, Cornell Haynes, Jr., has colored outside of traditional rap lines. He has Vokal and Apple Bottoms, the requisite man's and women's clothing lines. But the young man who was once seriously scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves -who still hoops at local community center in his hometown - has continued to show his love for sports. He's performed at Superbowls XXXV and XXXVIII (2001 and 2004, respectively). He maintains interest in a NASCAR team and has recently become part owner of an NBA expansion team, the Charlotte Bobcats.
Not satisfied with simply taking part in the "Got Milk?" ad campaign, Nelly created Pimp Juice, his own non-carbonated energy beverage. In its first quarter, Pimp Juice sold over a million units and was recognized by the respected industry trade BevNet (The Beverage Network) as the "People's Choice" for best energy drink, as well as being touted by Vibe magazine as the "best energy drink." Nelly has also started two non-profit organizations: 4 Sho 4 Kids aims at helping underprivileged inner-city youth by providing them literacy and other educational and social programs; Jes Us 4 Jackie, helps locate bone marrow donors for leukemia patients.
In 2002, Haynes segued from rapping to acting when he appeared in a starring role in the independently released film Snipes and the superstar rapper/entrepreneur/actor/athlete has landed a significant role in a re-make of the Burt Reynolds' classic film, The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock.
Now, the three-time Grammy winning artist will blaze a new trail. On September 14, 2004, he will become the first rap artist ever to release two new albums simultaneously, Sweat and Suit. Get this clear: Sweat and Suit are two separate albums full of all-new, high quality material. That's right, two albums. Not a double album: Two fully realized albums - each musically whole, conceptually complete and able to stand on its own.
Rarely do extended experiments of vision such as Miles Davis's Bitches Brew or Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life make it to the record shelves or your favorite online retailer. With new albums containing collaborations with a wide range of today's hottest artists including: Tim McGraw, Snoop Dogg, Ron Isley, Christina Aguilera, Fat Joe, Remy Ma and more, that unknown kid from St. Louis has evolved into a multi-talented artist, not content to retread the well-defined path of others or rest on his laurels. Sweat and Suit chronicles the best of both sides of life; the ups and downs; the good and bad. The albums provide a glimpse into the thoughts and life of the man behind the hits. "This time I was able to open up a little more and let people know that there are other sides of Nelly," he says.