Nelly gives knucks

Photo Courtesy Derrty ENT

Ashley Goetz

Photo Courtesy Derrty ENT

Nelly ALBUM: âÄúBrass KnucklesâÄù LABEL: Derrty Entertainment When Nelly , sporting that recognizable Band-Aid on his right cheek, sauntered onto the scene holding his crotch in 2000 with âÄúCountry Grammar,âÄù he blew the rap scene out of the water with original beats, a fresh-to-death attitude and surprising bridges that pleaded for another listen. Maybe it’s the nostalgia for 2000 talking, but Nelly’s since lost that Band-Aid, and it seemed like his ingenuity was tossed in the garbage with it. His dual album releases, âÄúSuitâÄù and âÄúSweatâÄù in 2004, topped the charts but offered no singles matching the originality and charm of his previous work. Four years and a few mediocre collaborations later, Nelly’s decided to try again. His album âÄúBrass KnucklesâÄù premiered on Tuesday and the St. Louis rapper has pulled from all of his resources. The album features several huge rap and R&B names: Snoop Dogg, T.I., Akon, Ashanti, LL Cool J, Janet and Ciara âÄî and that isn’t even half of the studs and starlets packed onto this album. Judging solely by the album’s first official single, âÄúParty PeopleâÄù (featuring Fergie) , NellyâÄôs comeback seems unlikely. Fergie’s groaning chorus and pseudo-rapping destroys any attitude that Nelly boasts by shouting, âÄúWatchinâÄô these suckers are mimickin, gimmickin / Then they start fallin off one a time.âÄù A look at the full album reveals something different. Nelly’s producers (especially Polow da Don ) pitch a nearly perfect game. Nelly hits hard with the songs that integrate R&B and rap like âÄúBody on MeâÄù with Ashanti and Akon doing what they do best: Adding a sliding chorus and strong finale. âÄúLong NightâÄù (featuring Usher) is the type of smooth ballad where Nelly usually swings and misses (remember the Tim McGraw collaborative fiasco âÄúOver and Over AgainâÄù ?). The song is a refreshing twist of Usher’s soulful harmonies, a bare snare beat and synthesizer scales. There are, of course, tracks where Nelly feels the need to turn his hardcore switch on and remind us that he came from streets a lot less beautiful than Rodeo Drive. âÄúU Ain’t HimâÄù (featuring Rick Ross) and âÄúLAâÄù (with Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg) manage to keep one listening even though it might be a little far-fetched to call them relatable. Aside from âÄúLet it Go, Lil MamaâÄù (starring Pharrell) âÄî which conjures a few painful moans due to overused turntables and a choppy chorus âÄî âÄúBrass KnucklesâÄù offers a new tang we haven’t tasted from the rap community in a while. The track list makes us wonder if we’re slamming to Nelly’s hollering attitude or maybe just humming along with whoever he’s featuring, but when the albumâÄôs playing it stops mattering if we’re enjoying Nelly or not, because almost every song on the album has something exhilarating to offer our dancing shoes, whether they be Air Jordans or Doc Martens. Even though âÄúBrass KnucklesâÄù makes a Fergalicious misstep or two, we can take it straight from the mouth of Nelly himself, âÄúWhat does it take to be No. 1? Two is not a winner and three nobody remembers…âÄù Nelly is still No.1.