Nelly – Brass Knuckles – review

Artist: Nelly
Title: Brass Knuckles
Label: Universal
Rating: 5/10

Corporate line:
Grammy award-winning artist Nelly breaks four years of silence with straight hand-to-mic combat on his fifth studio album Brass Knuckles.

The St. Louis rapper has sold 30 million albums to date — and he’s approaching his upcoming release with renewed intensity. “When you’re the champion you have to psyche yourself into thinking you’re the underdog, even if people don’t see you as that,” Nelly confesses. “Nobody going to give you anything, you got to work hard for what you want. You got to continue to press.”

Nelly makes his statement in the form of brass-tacks vocal tracks, dance floor anthems and suggestive, seductive slow jams. A master at dynamic collaborations, he’s assembled a cast of all-stars to collaborate including Usher, Pharrell, Akon, Ciara, Chuck D, Snoop Dogg, Jermaine Dupri, Ashanti, Avery Storm and the St. Lunatics. “When you hear the energy change, or the tempo switches to a nice flow, it means something,” he says. Nelly shows his versatility spitting rhymes with deep, percussive flow, and then switching it up to sing over soulful hooks.

The good:
“Self Esteem” f/Chuck D. – Nelly hits pay dirt with this track. Nelly didn’t need help here, but he got the best kind from the greatest M.C. of all time Chuck D.

The rest:

“U Ain’t Him” f/Rick Ross – Is Nelly trying to prove he is a gangster? He’s either telling someone they aren’t as tough as him or that they are looking stupid trying because “you ain’t him.”

“Hold Up” f/L.L. cool J and T.I. – Too many guests that don’t have much to offer on a track that doesn’t have any urgency or potency.

“LA” f/Snoop Dogg – Nelly should stick with the St. Louis style. Nelly just doesn’t have it in him to rhyme like Snoop or the likes of Warren G.

“Lie” f/St. Lunatics – The chorus is hilarious because its so bad. These are the worst rhymes of Nelly’s career.

“Body On Me” f/Akon – Nelly again kicks out a song without trying hard. The lyrics are a joke.

“Stepped On My J’z” f/Jermaine Dupri – As if it couldn’t get any worse Nelly proves me wrong.

Nelly can’t seem to rap on “Brass Knuckles” without a guest star. My guess is that he knew the tracks were weaker than usual and that he wanted to mask it with big name camouflage. Every track has an artist or two to help get Nelly through and none help the cause except Chuck D. Nelly still has the flow but too often Nelly tries to adopt their styles. The album doesn’t have any of the excitement and sing-song that made him famous.

Watch the video for “Body on Me”