J. Erving, co-president of Atom Factory (John Legend, Meghan Trainor, Miguel, Charlie Puth) talent management, manages St. Louis-born rapper Nelly and in an interview with Billboard this week he discussed the rapper’s career plans as following: “He’s a free agent on the label side now, and is working on a country-based Heartland EP, which should be really interesting. He may be one of the first hip-hop artists to jump into that space in an authentic way with Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw, so we think he has an opportunity to grow that base even more.”
Nelly released his debut album Country Grammer (should we have seen this coming, even then?) in 2000, and over the past 15 years has had several brushes with the genre. His first country hit came when he collaborated with Tim McGraw in 2004 for “Over and Over,” nine years later he teamed up with the genre blending country duo Florida Georgia Line for their “Cruise” remix—which became the top-selling digital country single of all time—and FGL appeared on the rapper’s 2013 collection, M.O.
2015 has otherwise been a year marred by controversy for the 40-year-old “Hot in Herre” rapper—he was arrested on several drug charges, including felony possession, when his tour bus was pulled over outside of Nashville for failure to display a U.S. Department of Transportation and International Fuel Tax Association sticker. Troopers reportedly found marijuana, methamphetamines, and multiple handguns. At the time of arrest (April 11) his attorney released the following statement: “We are extremely confident that when the facts come out, Nelly will not be associated with the contraband that was allegedly discovered.”