Rap superstar Nelly is the ultimate entrepreneur. Since his Rap debut 10 years ago Nelly has acted in major Hollywood films, became part owner of a professional basketball team, sold jeans to curvaceous women, and now he’s selling them perfume.
At a recent appearance to promote his new Apple Bottoms fragrance I had the chance to speak with Nelly about his various endeavors. I admittedly have never been a fan of Nelly’s music–it’s just not my style. Through my close friends in the city of St. Louis, Nelly’s home, I’d always heard about Nelly’s kindness and philanthropy. I got the chance to speak one-on-one with Nelly and everything that I heard was correct. He is one of the most humble and genuine celebrities that I’ve encountered.
When interviewing Hip-Hop artists, some of them can be a bit full of themselves while they’ve only sold 10 CD’s. Nelly is a multi-platinum recording artist who still manages to stay down to earth–rappers take note.
SS: It’s been 10 years since you debuted with Country Grammar. Did you ever think that you’d reach this level of success?
Nelly: You always wish for it I think. You continue to work and strive for it–to answer your question, yes and no [laughs].
SS: At what point did you know you made it?
Nelly: I don’t know because you’re still trying to find new things. You continue to do things that are surprising. To be able to win three Grammy’s, performing at the Super Bowl, and getting the chance to emulate LL Cool J at the Hip Hop Honors. I thought that was good [laughs]. That was big for me.
SS: You’re promoting this new perfume, tell our readers a little about the new Apple Bottoms fragrance.
Nelly: Well you know the Apple Bottoms fragrance is something that comes from the success of being able to bring forth the Apple Bottoms jeans seven years ago. We were able to expand into accessories and other things from having so many women support what I do from music, to apparel, to concerts, and now the fragrance. The fragrance is just right. It’s not overpowering. It’s something that makes the lady feel a little special kind of way.
SS: Recently Michael Jordan became majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats. How did that affect your situation as a minority owner of the team?
Nelly: [Laughs] It’s cool for me because he wouldn’t buy me out, chump! [Laughs] It’s great to be in business with him. He’s like an uncle to me. He’s always on me and he looks out for me. It’s a real good thing. Him and [Charles] Oakley they’re real cool. I’m proud of him. I don’t know if that sounds right for me to be proud of Michael Jordan but I am considering that he’s continually living out his dream. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people. When he went into it I think people had questions about him being an owner, but I think he is the perfect owner. I really do, because I think he gets it.
SS: What kind of stuff does Jordan clown you about?
Nelly: Just whatever–guy things. We enjoy doing the same things. He’s a real cool dude. I don’t think people understand how cool Mike is. Once the cameras are off you’re like, wow! He’s a great guy.
SS: I wanted to ask you about Midwest Rap real quick. You, Eminem, and Kanye [West] all blew up, but there still isn’t a dominant Midwest Rap scene. Why hasn’t the Midwest had the dominance over Rap like the East Coast, West Coast and South had?
Nelly: Because the Midwest is a mixture of everything. We don’t have the dominance but we sell the most records. You see what I’m saying? Look at Bone Thugs [N-Harmony], Eminem, and Nelly and the amount of records that we sold. We are the middle and we get a good mixture of everything. We have West Coast, East Coast and Southern influences. We mix that together and that’s what the Midwest is. We have our own style and flavor but we get a chance to take everything that we want and build into something. We don’t get the most shine but we are the most successful.
SS: Your upcoming album is called Nelly 5.0. What can we expect on Nelly 5.0?
Nelly: Just a lot of energy man. The album is incredible. It took me a minute to come back with this one. If you understand what a 5.0 is, it’s the best American muscle car to hit the street. This is what this album is gonna be. I think people are really going to be surprised and we can fast forward to where things need to be.
SS: Do you feel extra pressure to deliver given that so many people download illegally these days?
Nelly: The whole music industry feels pressure because everyone is downloading. I don’t feel pressure of having to prove something to somebody. People are only judging me against myself. When they judge my records they do it against records that I’ve already done. To be your own measuring stick is a good thing.
SS: When does the album come out?
Nelly: The album comes out September 21st.
SS: Talk a little bit about your foundation 4Sho4Kids.
Nelly: The foundation 4Sho4Kids is something where we help children with literacy programs and children with Down Syndrome. We have a Rap program and a Read to Achieve program. We also have a tutoring program where middle school kids tutor grade school kids; high school kids tutor middle school kids, and college kids tutor high school kids. Jes Us 4 Jackie is in memory of my sister who I lost to Leukemia in 2005. We get people signed up on bone marrow and stem cell registries and try to find donors for needy people–we’re still pushing.