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Nelly

Sweat  Hear it Now

RS: 3.5of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 4of 5 Stars

2004

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When Nelly blew up in 2000 with "Country Grammar," he boasted that he wanted to "blow thirty mil like I'm Hammer." But after four years at the top, Nelly isn't even close to falling off. The St. Lunatic drops two new albums the same day, Sweat and Suit. The inspiration might be OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, though his CDs are sold separately like G n' R's Use Your Illusion. Sweat is the street album, playing up his hip-hop clout, while Suit is smoother and more R&B. But both combine into one excellent combo platter, proving Nelly as one of the most clever and effusive pop minds around, whether he's choreographing a menage a trois in his Ford Trio or reading minds like Miss Cleo.

Sweat and Suit aren't far apart musically. Sweat features street-cred guest shots from Fat Joe, Mobb Deep and Missy Elliott, yet it's also the one with "Tilt Ya Head Back," a completely pop duet with Christina Aguilera. Sweat also has the Neptunes-produced "Flap Your Wings," where Nelly rhymes, "I'm so fabulous/Booteus maximus" amid cowbell-crazy party beats and detailed dance instructions (Lesson One: "Take off your pants, ma, you can leave your panties on/But first drop down and get your eagle on"). Suit is only slightly poppier, featuring Snoop Dogg and Ron Isley in "She Don't Know My Name" and Jaheim in the cheating song "My Place." Mase continues his none-too-historic comeback with "In My Life," but the weirdest guest is country singer Tim McGraw, who sings along with the guitar twang of "Over and Over." It's a hip-hop version of Willie Nelson throwing down with Julio Iglesias in "To All the Girls I've Loved Before." All over Sweat/Suit, Nelly mixes hip-hop energy and pop ebullience like it's no sweat at all.

ROB SHEFFIELD

(Posted: Sep 22, 2004)

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