So where do you place yourself amongst the Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas’?
When people ask who I think were some of the most influential rap artists of the last decade are, I would say “me.” Now, I’m talking about influential, not saying the best. Just think about where rap is and where it’s going. Everybody is trying to cross genres and step outside the box, do songs with Pop artists which I’ve been doing my whole career. But it’s not for me to say [laughs]
What’s behind the 5.0 title of the new album?
If you know anything about Menace to II Society… you saw Cain go get his green Mustang 5.0. And when I saw that car I was in awe. I thought that Mustang was the flyest thing ever and it’s a classic if you ask any motorhead. Of course I couldn’t afford it at the time and by the time I did get the money, they stopped making them. But I looked back at that movie and I just thought that this album embodied everything a Mustang is. The power, mystique, the muscle, the energy, that I was think this album is… a classic.
Musically, did you step out of the box and get away from your comfort zone on any tracks?
Nah, not all. I actually think I set myself up for this album. From Country Grammar on up—my own success has been my own worst enemy, when you have the successes of “Over and Over,” “Grillz,” “Dilemna,” ‘My Place,” but I also had “Number 1,”‘E.I.,” “Air Force One.” It’s really a variety of different sounds. I’ve built almost a divided fanbase. Everybody loves me for different types of records. I just think now it doesn’t matter what I do musically. I can come out and sing Opera and if it’s a hit it—it will transcend. That’s where I think I’m at now on my career. Even for the hardcore rap fans—if you’re not a fan of Nelly by now, you’re never going to be a fan of Nelly to a certain degree. I’m just not for you. But if you appreciate music, you don’t have to be fan to appreciate what I do.
So producer-wise, is it familiar cast on this one?
Well, I got Dr, Luke, Jim Jonsin, Polow, Infamous and a few others. I didn’t get with the Neptunes on this record but Pharrell and them is family, they’ve been on every album after Country Grammar.
I heard you got a record with Janet Jackson…
We didn’t get Janet on there, we still trying to figure that one out. But I got an incredible record with Akon & T.I. produced by Dr. Luke. I also got back with Kelly for another monster record. Diddy contributed a big record, pun intended. [laughs]
They’re like kids, I can’t pick a favorite. I actually love the “Just A Dream” record. This other one called “Go” I think is going to unbelievable. It’s all about picking yourself up after you fall and keep going. I always did the inspirational records but people for some reason don’t go to them. That’s my goal. I want to inspire.
This album has been two years in the making, at any point did you have to start over and scrap songs as the climate of Hip-Hop radio changed?
No, I’m always recording songs. I’m done with this album, and I’m still recording just to be making music. Two years is basically been the time span between all my records except from Sweat Suit to Brass Knuckles which was four. And that just came with so much shit in my life. I’m not going to lie, losing my sister put me through more than I was willing to admit at the time. Now that I look back, I realize I was just pushing and pushing but I was doing it blind. I wasn’t concentrating.
Did you have any serious thoughts about quitting rap altogether at that time?
My sister passed in ’05 and 6 months later my grandfather died. All through ’06 and ‘07 I felt that way. I didn’t know what I was doing. I’ve never experienced death with people that close to me. The more time you spend with someone that’s when it hurts the most. If you’ve been with people for 30 years and all of sudden they’re gone, it affects you more. I did come to a point where I wanted to quit. But I never showed it on the outside. People didn’t know I was fucked up, but that’s on me.
I know you experienced a similar situation recording this album, how are you dealing with that?
My other grandfather recently passed and 3 months later my cousin passed. It’s been a lot but I’m a no-excuse type of guy. I thrive on taking responsibility and trying to build from whatever has ailed you from making it to where you want to be.
On a more positive note, your younger brother was freed from prison last year after being away for nearly your entire career…
Yup, my little brother is free now. I think that was one of things that was holding up the next St. Lunatics album because we were under the impression that he would get one year, and then it was the next year, a couple of months and so on. But he’s out now so we ready to roll. We’ve got a new album coming out in November as well.
Does he treat you differently now?
Not with me and him. I think when he first got out, he saw me a little different. It’s like before he went in, we were together everyday and then you don’t see them for nine years.