Nelly
Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Nelly Biography

(1974–)
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Nelly is an American rapper and singer known for such hits as 'Country Grammar' and 'Dilemma.'

Who Is Nelly?

Nelly's 2000 solo debut, Country Grammar, spawned a smash single by the same name, and his unique approach to music has kept his sound fresh and the hits coming. Nelly's next four albums all made it to the top three on the Billboard chart, with the singles routinely making the top 20 and four of them going to No. 1. When the two-time Grammy Award winner isn't creating hit songs with collaborators or on his own, Nelly ventures into film and television work.

Early Years

Nelly was born Cornell Haynes Jr. on November 2, 1974, in Austin, Texas. His parents divorced when he was young, and Nelly and his mother eventually moved from downtown St. Louis to University City, Missouri. His interests growing up ran from baseball to rap, and he formed his first musical group, St. Lunatics, with some high school friends. St. Lunatics found some local success in 1996 with the self-produced single "Gimme What You Got," but success didn't stick, and St. Lunatics decided that Nelly would be better off as a solo act who could bring attention to the whole group. It wasn't long before the theory was proved correct, as Nelly was signed by Universal to a solo contract.

Albums and Songs

'Country Grammar'

Nelly's debut album, Country Grammar (2000), became a huge hit while featuring appearances by St. Lunatics, Lil Wayne and Cedric the Entertainer. The record went platinum nine times over in the United States and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. It peaked at No. 1 on the album chart, and the first single, also called "Country Grammar," reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and No. 1 on the rap chart. The second single, "Ride wit Me," featured St. Lunatic member City Spud and hit No. 3.

The following year, Nelly headed back into the studio with St. Lunatics, and the group released its first album, Free City, which went platinum in the United States.

'Nellyville'

Striking while the iron was still hot, Nelly released Nellyville, his second solo record, in 2002. One week after debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the artist found himself in the top spot on 10 different Billboard charts, with Nellyville eventually going platinum six times over. Its single "Hot in Herre" was a ubiquitous No. 1 and took the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Male Rap Solo Performance, while the follow-up "Dilemma," featuring Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, earned the Best Rap/Sung Performance Grammy. Additional singles like "Work It," featuring Justin Timberlake, and "Air Force Ones," featuring Murphy Lee and the St. Lunatics, riddled the airwaves.

'Sweat,' 'Suit,' 'Sweatsuit'

Literally mixing it up, in 2003 Nelly broke from his studio work to release a remix album called Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention before releasing two more studio albums in 2004, Sweat (an R&B album) and Suit (a more rap-oriented album). Suit debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, and Sweat debuted at No. 2, keeping Nelly riding high in the music world. In the winter of 2005, the inevitable Sweatsuit was released. A compilation of songs from Sweat and Suit, with three new tracks, Sweatsuit launched "Grillz" into the No. 1 spot, and "Flap Your Wings" and "My Place" also burned up the charts.

'Brass Knuckles,' '5.0,' 'M.O.'

In 2008, Nelly launched Brass Knuckles, his fifth studio album, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The highest-charting single, "Party People," peaked at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the next two singles, "Stepped on My J'z" and "Body on Me," peaked at No. 90 and No. 42, respectively. In 2010, Nelly released 5.0., featuring the hits "Just a Dream" (No. 3), "Move That Body" and "Gone," the sequel to 2002's "Dilemma." He followed in 2013 with M.O., which included a well-received collaboration with Nicki Minaj and Pharrell Williams on "Get Like Me." 

Films and TV Shows

Nelly appeared in Adam Sandler's 2005 remake of the prison football film The Longest Yard and later landed a recurring role on CSI: NY. He also became involved in reality television fare by starring in two seasons of Nellyville, while also featuring prominently in Real Husbands of Hollywood and The Platinum Life.

Clothing and Charity

Early in his career, Nelly unveiled the clothing lines Vokal and Apple Bottom. He also launched the 4Sho4Kids Foundation, which raises money and awareness for various children's health issues.

Personal

Nelly has been in a relationship with girlfriend Shantel Jackson since 2014.

In late 2017, a 22-year-old University of Washington student sued the entertainer, claiming he sexually assaulted her on his tour bus and later damaged her reputation in his public denials. A lawyer for Nelly denounced the lawsuit as being "motivated by greed" and said his client would countersue. The charges were eventually dropped.

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