Born Cornell Iral Haynes, Jr. in Austin, Texas, Haynes spent most of his childhood with his mother in St. Louis and University City, Missouri following his parents’ divorce. In high school, Nelly formed a hip-hop group called the St. Lunatics with several friends and his half-brother City Spud. The group produced a single, “Gimme What Ya Got,” in 1997, which brought them moderate popularity.
After a record deal failed to come to fruition for the St. Lunatics, Nelly went solo.
Career Beginnings and Rise to Fame
In 1999, Universal Music Group signed Nelly. A&R Kevin Law has since disclosed that Nelly was initially disliked by the label due to the negativity of his music. Nelly was also unusual and unique in being a rapper from the Midwest, when most rappers at the time were from the West Coast, East Coast, or the South.
The label decided, despite disliking his particular brand of music, to promote him as the premier rapper of the Midwest, hoping to gain audiences from St. Louis and the surrounding areas. Nelly’s “Country Grammar” became a success, taking the #7 spot on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK singles chart. This gave the label a change of heart as they decided to keep him on to produce his debut album.
Due to his success, Nelly decided this was a good time to reunite the St. Lunatics. However, the label decided to focus on Nelly’s solo career prior to providing an opportunity for the St. Lunatics.
Nelly album Country Grammar was released in 2000 and was successful to the point of becoming certified 9x platinum on April 27, 2004. Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” a single on his second album Nellyville, became a number-one hit in 2002.
In 2004, Nelly released two more albums, Suit and Sweat. The former debuted at number one on the Billboard chart, while the latter took number two. His next album, Brass Knuckles, was released in 2008.
Nelly’s next album 5.0 was released in 2010. This Nelly album’s lead single “Just a Dream” became a hit and ultimately became Nelly’s highest-charted song since 2005’s “Grillz.”
From 2011 to 2014, Nelly continued to produce and collaborated with Pitbull on a song titled “My Kinda Girl,” released a mixtape featuring the St. Lunatics and other artists, became a coach on the TV series The Next: Fame Is at Your Doorstep on The CW, and released his seventh album M.O., which produced a number of hit singles.
In 2014 to 2015, Nelly also starred in the reality TV show Nellyville, which chronicled his acting and music career along with his experience as a father raising four children.
Nelly Relationships: Who Has He Dated?
Nelly has been in a long-term relationship with Shantel Jackson since April 2014.
Nelly has also dated:
- Lashontae Heckard (2005-2014)
- Nicole Narain (2004)
- Ashanti (2003-2014)
- Claudia Jordan (2002)
- Kelly Rowland (2002)
- Eve (2000-2003)
Nelly has also been seen with Karrine Steffans in 2000 and Kat Stacks.
The Latest Nelly News
Despite his success, along with years of work as a philanthropist, Nelly has garnered controversy and made headlines due to a series of arrests for several offenses.
In 2015, Nelly was arrested during a traffic stop in which his tour bus was pulled over for displaying stickers that didn’t conform to U.S. Department of Transportation and International Fuel Tax Association regulations. Inside the bus, authorities found marijuana and drug paraphernalia, along with several handguns and another substance believed to have been methamphetamine. However, the latter was found not to have been methamphetamine, and as such Nelly only pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
A year later, Nelly was reported to have a $2.4 million tax lien against him as a result of overdue taxes that he owed the IRS.
In 2017, Nelly was arrested again in Auburn, Washington, when authorities placed him as a suspect of second-degree rape following a woman’s allegations claiming that he invited her onto his tour bus earlier that day and subsequently raped her. Although he was booked and jailed in a Des Moines, Washington jail, Nelly was later released without charge. He denied the accusations, and in December of that year, it was decided that Nelly would not be charged. However, he was once again accused of sexual assault in 2018 following a Cliffs Pavilion gig that took place in late 2017. The case has since been dropped as of April, 2019.
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