Nelly on his ups and downs | EW.com

Music

Nelly on his ups and downs

With ''Just a Dream,'' the rapper is back in a big way. He takes us through his decade in the industry.

June 25, 2002: Nellyville lands in stores
Nelly was on top of the pop world when this blockbuster album came out. ”The last two songs I recorded were ‘Hot in Herre’ and ‘Dilemma,”’ he says. ”It’s just amazing how s— works.”

November 2003: Protest over a racy video
Considered misogynistic by many, his ”adult” clip for ”Tip Drill” incited outrage and damaged his pop-friendly image. ”I wouldn’t change anything,” Nelly says. ”We didn’t give a s—.”

Sept. 14, 2004: Two albums at once
Sweat and Suit made him the first artist with a No. 1 and No. 2 album the same week, and a track with Tim McGraw hit the pop charts. At first the label balked at the two-CD idea, but ”after seeing the success of it, they loved me.”

March 24, 2005: A family tragedy
Nelly’s half sister, Jackie Donahue, died of acute myelogenous leukemia at 31. ”She was everything,” he says. ”My personal assistant, my mother, my sister. She’d put me in check. To lose that, it was catastrophic.”

Sept. 16, 2008: A career low
After almost leaving the music biz, Nelly returned with underperformer Brass Knuckles. Even a Fergie-assisted single didn’t help much. ”My enthusiasm wasn’t there,” he recalls. ”I made some good music, but it just didn’t work out.”

April 28, 2010: More tragic news
Nelly’s cousin Michael Johnson was shot and killed in front of his St. Louis-area home.

Fall 2010: The big comeback
Nelly’s single ”Just a Dream” (from the upcoming Nelly 5.0) has rocketed to No. 3, making it one of fall’s hottest tracks. ”I’m just doing what I’ve always done,” he says.