Fear of a velour planet

Nelly's new concept album causes heads to be scratched

Keri Carlson

Hip-hop is different from other mainstream genres.

Any self-respecting rock music fan would scoff at the trash offered on commercial radio, but the same is not true for hip-hop. Jay-Z, Missy Elliot and Outkast top the charts with the most innovative beats and rhymes. Rap does not have the same snooty divide between the underground and conventional listeners as other genres.

Though hip-hop is the best thing happening in mainstream music, that doesn’t mean rap isn’t without its own idiotic artists. Take frat-party poster boy Nelly. Keeping up the momentum from his single (you might have heard it) “Hot in Herre,” Nelly graces us with two new albums, one titled “Sweat,” the other “Suit.”

This is Nelly’s attempt to create a work as monumental as Outkast’s “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.”

It’s not hard to decipher the meaning behind each album. “Sweat” features Nelly’s famous down ‘n’ dirty, vulgar lyrical stylings. Most of the songs on this record sound like a rehash of “Hot in Herre.” “Suit,” however, shows a new, sophisticated Nelly; one who cares for his kids and respects women. The albums’ covers – “Sweat,” with Nelly in the sun and clouds; and “Suit,” with Nelly surrounded by city lights – give a clue as to what he wants to portray. His cliched imagery is meant to suggest that the different sides of Nelly are as opposite as night and day.

Nelly’s effort to be seen as something more than a playa fails. After listening to the booty-obsessed “Sweat,” you can’t take “Suit” seriously.

Where the more inventive rap artists succeed with mind-blowing beats, Nelly’s beats are sleazy and trite.

The worst moment comes from the very first track on “Sweat.” Nelly samples John Tesh’s NFL theme song. This only serves as a reminder that Nelly is much like the Superbowl: an overblown event with a crappy game that many tune in just to see the commercials.

The one (if any) reason to listen to “Sweat” and “Suit” would be for the guest artists such as Missy Elliot, the Neptunes’ Pharrell and Snoop Dogg.

“Sweat” and “Suit” one certainly no “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” and Nelly’s attempt to be something other than a clubber will eventually alienate his fan base.