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A savvy pop-rapper with crossover appeal, Nelly seemed like a novelty when he first debuted in 2000 with "Country Grammar (Hot...)," yet he was no one-hit wonder, consistently returning to the pop charts with smash hits like "Hot in Herre," "Grillz," and "Dilemma." His universality was partly rooted in his hometown -- the Gateway City, officially known as St. Louis, Missouri -- which set him apart from all of the prevailing rap styles of his time. He wasn't from the East or West Coast, nor was he from the South. Nelly's locale certainly informed his rapping style, which was both country and urban at the same time, as well as his dialect, which combined a Southern drawl with Midwestern twang. Plus, Nelly never shied away from a pop-rap approach, embracing a singalong vocal style that made his hooks catchier than most, thanks also in part to his standby producer, Jason "Jay E" Epperson. As a result, Nelly became a rapper capable of crossing practically all boundaries, from the Dirty South to MTV's Total Request Live and everything in between. His first hit, "Country Grammar (Hot...)," became a nationwide summer anthem in 2000, and many more smash hits followed during the remainder of the decade. Born Cornell Haynes, Jr., on November 2, 1974, Nelly moved with his mother from downtown St. Louis to the slightly more suburban University City as a teen. There, he chiefly attended to baseball and rap, forming the St. Lunatics with a group of his peers (including Big Lee, Kyjuan, Murphy Lee, and City Spud). The St. Lunatics enjoyed a regional hit in 1996 with the self-produced single "Gimmie What You Got," but no recording deal was forthcoming. Frustrated with failed attempts to land a record deal as a group, the St. Lunatics collectively decided that Nelly would have a better chance as a solo act. The rest of the group could follow with solo albums of their own. The gamble paid off, and soon Nelly caught the attention of Universal, who signed him to a solo deal. His debut album, Country Grammar (2000), featured contributions from the St. Lunatics as well as the Teamsters, Lil Wayne, and Cedric the Entertainer, and thanks to the widespread popularity of lead single "Country Grammar (Hot...)," Country Grammar debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 album chart, climbing to the top spot soon afterward. In addition to the Top Ten title track, Country Grammar spawned the hit singles "E.I.," "Ride wit Me," and "Batter Up." In the wake of Nelly's remarkable breakthrough success, he recorded a group album with the St. Lunatics, Free City (2001); released by Universal, the album charted in the Top Three and spawned a moderate hit, "Midwest Swing," which cracked the Billboard Hot 100 at number 88. The following summer Nelly returned with his second album, Nellyville (2002), and lived up to his self-proclaimed billing as "#1" (i.e., the title of his 2001 hit from the Training Day soundtrack): Nellyville topped the Billboard album chart, while the Neptunes-produced lead single, "Hot in Herre," remained atop the singles chart. In all, Nelly impressively held the number one spot on ten different Billboard charts the week of Nellyville's release, and he remained a chart presence as he released a string of follow-up singles: "Dilemma" (a chart-topper), "Air Force Ones" (a Top Three hit), "Work It" (featuring Justin Timberlake), and "Pimp Juice" (the source of some controversy). Even after Nellyville ran its course commercially, Nelly's hit streak continued unabated, with "Iz U" (from his stopgap remix album Derrty Versions [2003]) and "Shake Ya Tailfeather" (from the Bad Boys II [2003] soundtrack) keeping him in the spotlight while he readied his separately released double-disc Sweatsuit (2004) project (following the lead of OutKast and R. Kelly, who had both recently released very successful two-disc sets). Sweat and Suit were led by a pair of red-hot singles -- "Flap Your Wings" (a club jam) and "My Place" (a slow jam) -- and debuted at the top two spots on the Billboard 200 album chart. Follow-up singles included "Tilt Ya Head Back" (featuring Christina Aguilera), "Over and Over" (Tim McGraw), "Na-Na-Na-Na" (Jazze Pha), and "N Dey Say." Sweat and Suit were later bundled as Sweatsuit (2005), along with the new song "Grillz," itself a number one hit. The time between its release and that of Brass Knuckles (2008) was the longest Nelly went between albums to date, though he did collaborate frequently (with Ashanti, R. Kelly, and T.I., to name only a few) during the downtime. The star-studded 5.0 (2010) featured the singles "Just a Dream" (produced by Jim Jonsin) and "Move That Body" (produced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin, featuring Akon and T-Pain). His 2013 effort M.O. featured numerous tracks with Pharrell, plus Nicki Minaj and Nelly Furtado as guest stars. Nellyville, a BET reality series, started airing in November 2014. "The Fix," featuring Jeremih, came the following year and was his 27th single to appear on the Hot 100. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
  2.   Hot in Herre
  3.   Country Grammar (Hot...)
  4.   Ride Wit Me
  5.   Over and Over
  6.   Dilemma
  7.   Air Force Ones
  8.   Just a Dream
  9.   Grillz
  10.   E.I.
  11.   #1
  12.   The Fix
  13.   Heart of a Champion
  14.   Rick James
  15.   Let Em Fight featuring Ali
  16.   Get Like Me
  17.   Batter Up
  18.   Body on Me
  19.   I'm Number 1
  20.   Work It
  21.   1000 Stacks
  22.   IDGAF
  23.   Hold Up
  24.   Walk Away
  25.   Maryland, Massachusetts
  26.   She's So Fly
  27.   Let It Go Lil' Mama
  28.   Play It Off
  29.   Pretty Toes
  30.   Shake Whateva
  31.   Hey Porsche
  32.   Flap Your Wings
  33.   LA
  34.   Stomp
  35.   Gone
  36.   Whip Yo Ass
  37.   Fly Away
  38.   Talking That Talk
  39.   The Champ
  40.   For My
  41.   Nelly - Hot In Here
  42.   Pimp Juice
  43.   St. Louie
  44.   Die a Happy Man
  45.   Number One
  46.   Luven Me
  47.   Tip Drill
  48.   Greed Hate Envy
  49.   Stepped On My J'z featuring Ciara
  50.   N Dey Say
  51.   Nellyville
  52.   Iz U
  53.   Call on Me
  54.   Nothing Without Her
  55.   Party People
  56.   Paradise
  57.   Spida Man
  58.   Zambia Music, Pt. 13
  59.   Dem Boyz
  60.   Long Night
  61.   Stepped on My J'z featuring Ciara
  62.   Blind Pedestrian Crossing
  63.   My Ballz
  64.   My Place
  65.   River Don't Runnn
  66.   King's Highway
  67.   If
  68.   Zambia Music, Pt. 8
  69.   Steal the Show
  70.   Сны на двоих
  71.   I'm Coming Home
  72.   Sounds Good to Me
  73.   Zambia Music, Pt. 1
  74.   Headphones
  75.   All Around the World
  76.   100K
  77.   K.I.S.S.
  78.   If I Gave U 1
  79.   Who F***s wit Me by Avery Storm
  80.   Chill
  81.   Nasty Girl
  82.   Errtime featuring Jung Tru
  83.   Tilt Ya Head Back
  84.   Na-Nana-Na
  85.   In the Store featuring Cedric the Entertainer
  86.   CG2
  87.   Roc the Mic featuring Beanie Sigel
  88.   Splurge
  89.   On the Grind by King Jacob
  90.   Never Let 'Em C U Sweat
  91.   Utha Side
  92.   I'm All Alone Now
  93.   Intro
  94.   Остров
  95.   Небо
  96.   Freaky with You
  97.   Du är en ängel nu
  98.   Loco Life
  99.   I Will Wait for You
  100.   Prisoner
  101.   Zambia Music, Pt. 16
  102.   Zambia Music, Pt. 14
  103.   Zambia Music, Pt. 12
  104.   Zambia Music, Pt. 11
  105.   Zambia Music, Pt. 10
  106.   Zambia Music, Pt. 5
  107.   Zambia Music, Pt. 4
  108.   Zambia Music, Pt. 3
  109.   Zambia Music, Pt. 2
  110.   Quit You
  111.   Mos Focused
  112.   Ciroc & Simply Lemonade
  113.   My Chick Better
  114.   U Know U Want To
  115.   Give U Dat
  116.   Heaven
  117.   Move That Body featuring Akon
  118.   Making Movies
  119.   Long Gone
  120.   Liv Tonight
  121.   Go
  122.   Don't It Feel Good
  123.   Broke
  124.   So Fly by Akon