NELLY photographed in 2020

Style Evolution: Nelly

Style Evolution: Nelly

Published Thu, July 21, 2022 at 12:00 PM EDT

You look at anybody who’s got 20-plus years in music, and it’s because they understood evolution. They understand versatility. I’m not saying that they’re changing who they are. They’re just figuring out how they fit in the now with what’s going on, as they should. That’s like anything… You’re going to have to figure out how the game has changed. You have to figure out how your game fits into that game, or you could sit there and complain and watch it pass you by.”

Nelly’s 1999 debut album, Country Grammar, launched his career as a global superstar. With over 20 million albums sold, he is one of the most significant artists of the new millennium. His groundbreaking work infused country, soul and R&B into rap music. He continues to reinvent himself both musically and stylistically. He came onto the scene rocking brightly colored caps and durags with special edition jerseys. Over the past 20 years, he embraced all sides of his style identity: rock star, athlete, sex symbol, and hip-hop statesmen. We salute Pimp Juice and all of his contributions.

1 of 10


Hip-hop is more than music, it’s a culture. It’s bigger than hit songs.

2 of 10


"You always get that energy, you just want to be heard, to go out, do your thing and show people that we have just as much talent here as everywhere else."

3 of 10


"I saw myself as kind of teaching great students who were already winning at country music about what we were trying to do in creating something new and possibly a new genre of music. You just never know where it ends with a new genre of music, with hip-hop being the base. And that’s a testament to Hip-Hop."

4 of 10


When you’re “musically free,” nothing seems like a challenge for you. And I’ve been at the top of several different genres of music. So nothing seems far-fetched.

5 of 10


Your hater is your future fan in a way. Cause when it’s different they don’t really take to it at first, but after you look back on it you get a chance to reflect on it.

6 of 10


"I tried to set myself up for not being put in a box. Well, how do you do that? First of all, nothing can sound alike in what you’re doing. So, as you can see, the goal is to keep doing what people would consider big records or great songs, but they don’t sound alike. Everything is a new sound. Everything is a new look."

7 of 10


What happens is, when you are a great influence, people are inspired by you. It’s the same way as I was inspired by those before me. I was just able to take it to another level and show that you can do it in the same vein as what everybody else is doing, and you can [do] your own thing right next to them.

8 of 10


When you move around a lot, you’re always the new kid. I was always reinventing myself.  That’s why I think I was built for this business. I can pick up and keep moving. I’m built to travel. I’ve been traveling my whole life.

9 of 10


I always tried to be innovative in some type of way… I think that was just the key for me… I think that’s the craft.

10 of 10


"When it really really hit me was right around Krush Groove, and you’re watching LL kick in the door. Even leading up to LL, rap really wasn't an artform for, I would say, I didn’t see it as an artform for someone who liked to interact with the ladies. Because if you liked to interact with the ladies you sang. But then LL made it so it was just like boom: why can’t you do both? And then it showed that Hip-Hop could be a tool to do whatever you need it to do. I can destroy you if I want but I can also, you know, appreciate the ladies with it. And I was just like 'well, damn man, that’s for me.'"


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