Successfully pulling off the always tricky “double-album” is quite a task for any rap artist. While Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac were able to pull it off without scars, Jay-Z and Wu-Tang Clan came under scrutiny for overloading their discs with excess filler. The latest name to attempt the double-album is St. Louis golden child Nelly, but unlike his predecessors, Nelly has injected some marketing strategy into his endeavor by splitting his opus into two separate albums. Seemingly an effort to cash in more than ever, Nelly’s latest tries to offer one disc for the party-goers, titled Sweat, and one for the more grown and sexy, titled Suit.
While Nelly has never been the game’s tightest lyricist, enjoying one of his records is best suited for a club atmosphere, and that’s where Sweat should have guaranteed positive reaction. Unfortunately, this is not the case by any means. Over its thirteen track length, Sweat follows every cliche and stereotype that Nelly has helped solidify.
Opening with slight promise in the form of the energized sampling of the NBA theme music on “Heart Of A Champion,” things slowly drift into mediocrity. Save for Jazze Pha’s hypnotic bells on “Na-Nana-Na” and The Neptunes’ undeniably addictive percussion on “Flap Your Wings,” Sweat falters with the dreaded combination of bland production and hollow lyricism. The obvious attempt at hardening the mood by use of dark piano notes on “Spida Man” comes off laughable, while the usually reliable Alchemist contributes a clear throw-away instrumental for Mobb Deep to abandon their recent grimy resurgence alongside Nelly and Missy on the suspect “Playa.” The worst offender on Sweat easily comes in the form of “Tilt Ya Head Back,” the painful duet with Christina Aguilera that abuses a Curtis Mayfield sample while laying further claim into the argument that Nelly is more hip-pop than hip-hop.
On the Suit disc, things thankfully take a welcome turn for the better. Nelly is much easier on the ears when embracing his soulful side, rather than exploiting his lack of rhyme skills. “Play It Off” smoothes the tempo out with assisted crooning from Pharrell Williams, while Jahiem delivers a perfect hook to the romantic “My Place.” Despite a poor showing by Mase, “In My Life” gets the thumbs up courtesy of its playfully upbeat backdrop. On the introspective “Nobody Knows,” Nelly brings listeners closer into his life with heartfelt nostalgia and an engaging chorus serviced by the impeccable voice of Anthony Hamilton. Not all is well on Suit, however, as both “N Dey Say” and the much-hyped Tim McGraw collabo “Over and Over” miss their intended targets.
With Nelly, what you see is what you get. His music has never been celebrated for its artistic merit or creative edge; his platinum plaques and superstar stature have come through the support of those leaning more towards J-Kwon than say, Raekwon. Favoring quantity over quality, Sweat/Suit gives the world exactly what was expected, the St. Lunatic’s latest exercise in flash and presentation devoid of layered substance.
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