(Photo: Universal Motown)
Not many artists can return from an extended hiatus with enough momentum to recapture fans’ full attention. With hip hop culture constantly moving forward, those who aren’t constantly on the radar or ahead of the curve usually get permanently lost in the mainstream’s unforgiving current. Even Nelly, Billboard golden boy and one of the highest selling hip hop artists of all time, can’t cancel out the affect that stepping out of the spotlight can have on a career. But after proving that he still has some juice with last year’s “C.A.N. (Country A** N****),” St. Louis’ favorite son is back with an entire mixtape, Scorpio Season, and high hopes of a return to the top of the charts.
In Nelly’s absence, MC’s like 2 Chainz and Future have filled fans’ desires for the funky melodies and syrupy flows that Nelly pioneered in the early 2000s. But while he arguably created the lane that made many of his current peers’ careers possible, he now finds himself following their lead in hopes that it will take him back to his days of mainstream dominance. As a result, it’s hard to tell if Nelly is here to reclaim the charts for good or if he’s simply reaching for a final moment of relevance.
On “C-N-F (Country Nigga Fly),” he gives an underwhelming continuation of “C.A.N.,” which lacks the personal touch that would differentiate it from any other mediocre club jam. “I’m a strip club veteran, better than you ever been,” croons Nelly as he tries to force a memorable chorus. But much like Ludacris’ cringe-worthy attempts at using Drake and Big Sean’s “one-word punchline” style, he falls short with bars like, “Eating dinner off my money, call it paper plates,” which reek of desperation.
Still, the project is salvaged by a solid roster of guests, including B.o.B., Chris Brown and Nelly’s St. Lunatics brethren Murphy Lee and City Spud. On the Drumma Boy-produced “GO,” Nelly, Lee and Spud attempt to recapture the magic of carefree hits like “Batter Up” and “Ride Wit Me,” resulting in a solid record that survives by more than nostalgia. “Marry Go Round” features a catchy chorus from Chris Brown and “MJ” places Nelly alongside fellow MC-slash-crooner B.o.B. as they claim, “I been balling on these n****s all day, call me MJ.” Overall, Scorpio Season is neither a nail in the coffin for Nelly’s career nor the triumphant comeback record that will put him back on top of the charts. For those who miss the hypnotic vibes of past hits like “Pimp Juice” and “E.I.,” it will scratch the itch long enough for STL’s finest to cook up something real Derrty for our ears.
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