One would think that at 36 years old, Nelly would have evolved not just as an artist, but as a person. But he’s still almost solely concerned with money, chicks and slick club beats. His latest hip-pop album 5.0 is a vapid mess of attempted nightclub bangers and rehashings of the rapper’s older work.
While Nelly occasionally ventures into the pop music realm on 5.0, his clever rhyming and Southern twang are noticeably absent in an album populated with lazy hooks and inane rhymes about money. While Nelly’s contemporaries have branched out from simply imploring women (or “shawtys”) to shake their respective moneymakers, Nelly tragically never recovered from, as he puts it, “get-money syndrome.”
The hypnotically repetitive “Move That Body” features lots of finger snapping and guest appearances by hip-hop mainstays T-Pain and Akon (who spends most of the track admiring some girl’s ass in typical Akon fashion). This wannabe club hit’s one redeeming factor is Nelly’s ability to spit his game faster and with more energy than almost any rapper out there. However, it ends up being a tiring, forgettable song destined only to get play at the clubs after everyone is too drunk to notice the sheer dullness of the track.
The worst part of the album is Nelly’s campy, soft rhyming. On “Broke,” Nelly claims that “My crib is plush, plush / I’m talking elevator / So don’t you touch, touch.” Sophie Greene has a grating guest appearance, singing: “If you ain’t got no money then you can’t do nothing for me / In Vegas, L.A., Miami and New York / Yeah I like shopping.” Maybe if Nelly met a nice, unmaterialistic girl, he could write a hit about something other than banging a ho and gettin’ dough (see Nelly, rhyming isn’t that hard). Despite its exhaustive lyrics, “Broke” at least has a solid hook and some dance-party appeal due to tight production and a hard-hitting back beat.
On the radio-ready hit “Just a Dream,” Nelly drops the rapper façade and makes himself vulnerable for the epic track. He switches between rapping and singing about a girl who left him heartbroken. Nelly isn’t afraid to cross over to sugary, inoffensive pop and the result is a decent track with a sing-a-long hook. Though his fans will yearn for the rapper of yore, the soaring track has chart-topping potential.
Of course, Nelly’s status as an emerging pop star requires a little star power. Unfortunately, the irrelevant Puff Daddy (or is it P-Diddy these days?) steps up and remains a fixture throughout 5.0. On the aptly named “1000 Stacks,” Diddy raps about expensive champagne (or Lamborghinis or something) and making money while Notorious B.I.G. adds some credibility from beyond the grave to back up Nelly and Diddy’s tag-team. But it’s doubtful Biggie would want his sample attached to such a boring track. Nelly screams his verses at listeners on this desperate attempt at club fare, but nothing he’s yelling is all that innovative or worth the stress of traumatizing your ear drums.
The album closes with an awkward piano ballad that has Nelly attempting to pass off his whining as singing. “Nothing Without Her” sounds like a parody, complete with Nelly practically sobbing his lyrics like “When I look deep in her eyes / I see there’s love inside.” And though he spends most of the album worshiping money, Nelly disingenuously claims, “See all the money in this world don’t mean / Nothing without her,” as a sentimental guitar strains in the background. Now, generally Auto-Tune shouldn’t be advocated, but Nelly’s voice might have benefited from some tweaking on this track.
Nelly’s latest is populated by filler and marred by the rapper’s disappointing delivery of subpar rhymes. Fans will pine for the man of “Country Grammar” fame who once rapped, “Forget the fame and the glamour.” Now all Nelly raps about is fame and glamour. Though his last album Brass Knuckles failed to sell as many copies as his previous work, Nelly has said he doesn’t consider 5.0 to be a comeback. Which is good, because it definitely isn’t.