Behind the velvet rope at his star-studded ESPY Awards party at the Palm Steakhouse in downtown Los Angeles, Nelly, one of the best-selling stars in American music history (with over 21 million albums sold) is talking about his new album, M.O. It already features Nicki Minaj and Pharrell on the first single alone. But the Apple Bottoms founder is also explaining why he has a focus on health in hip hop and his new movement, "Celebrity Sweat," and accompanying DVD that features workout regimens and advice. BET.com was there to run the mic connection for an exclusive interview.
Do you think hip hop needs to do a better job of addressing health as part of its subject matter?
I definitely do. I just think our generation as a whole needs to do better. Our generation as a whole needs to do a lot more with addressing health, really with addressing a lot of things, but since we're talking about health today we'll focus on that, getting out, eating better, and I think we're doing that. I can't front, it may not be as fast of a process as we would like, but I definitely see more entertainers working out, I definitely see more people getting involved and being a lot healthier. I'm hoping to help spearhead that. I know my "uncle" [LL Cool J] is a big fitness fanatic and hopefully the trend is to get more and more involved.
It seems to be trending that way at least a little bit, if you look at guys like Fat Joe and Mack 10, both of whom are in the best shape of their careers.
You see Mack 10; you see my homie The Game, he's always instagraming and tweeting his workout with his buddies; and you see so many women like La La, and so many people involved. Kelly Rowland! So our generation, we're trying to make a mark and "Celebrity Sweat" is one of those things where we're trying to get celebrities and athletes to be more responsible and help with the community.
Speaking of working with other celebrities, you're known for taking risks with your collaborations. You've done songs with with country stars and rock stars. What new collaborations have you thought about doing?
I don't know, you know, my collaborations, they're not really built on the shock factor, they're built on good music, and I always tell people I don't care who I collaborate with as long as the music speaks for itself, as long as the music is, you know, acceptable, that's all that matters to me.
You've got a hot new single in "Get Like Me" already out. What can people expect from the new album M.O.?
It's out September 30 and as you mentioned, the first single is the one with Nicki Minaj and Pharrell called "Get Like Me." I had a chance to work with a lot of great producers; Rico Love; of course, Pharrell; my man Detail, who's incredible, he's been doing a lot of work with the Cash Money camp right now ... I'm really excited for people to hear the album.
You've been in this game for almost a decade and a half, and seen plenty of rappers and trends come and go. What advice do you give up-and-coming MCs about endurance, longevity?
You know what, longevity comes with being versatile, understanding that everything must change at some point. So, as an artist you have to have a creative mind and a [thought] process of, "It's not about this being my time, but I'm doing what I love." And when you think like that, it doesn't matter how the music changes, you'll always find yourself being a part of what's going on.
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(Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images for BET)