Last month, when the public learned that St. Louis-born rapper Nelly was facing a hefty $2.5 million federal tax lien, fans insisted on proactivity. Thanks to a convincing Spin article and some simple math, enthusiasts decided that streaming Nelly tracks on Spotify a “joint 402,880,500 times” would cut down the rapper’s debt significantly.
So that’s what they did. Fans put “Hot in Herre” on repeat, and Spotify streams of the track increased significantly within a matter of days. The hashtag #SaveNelly began trending on Twitter, and the Nelly following was stronger than ever.
Nelly’s show at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom on Thursday, October 27, further displayed this unwavering loyalty. Band-Aids were worn in solidarity with the rapper, songs were sung word for word, and thoughts of encouragement were shouted from the audience — “I love you, Nelly!” yelled a young man in flannel. “Nelly’s hot!” screeched a Band-Aid-adorned girl holding a vodka cranberry.
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When the rapper bounded onto the stage with a red cup in hand to meet his sold-out crowd, wide-eyed concert-goers thrust their camera phones toward the stage and screamed in approval, gripping their own cups and rubbing shoulders with their neighbors. With a crisp white shirt and gradient-lensed sunglasses, Nelly launched into his set with tracks like “Shake Ya Tailfeather” and “Air Force Ones," hits of the early '00s and Nelly’s prime.
What he called for most during his set was his “day ones” — the fans that had been buying albums, seeing concerts and singing along with each track since Country Grammar. Every now and then he brought forth a quiz on the subject: “If you’re really a day one, you can sing every word to this song…” Then “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)" would come through the speakers and audience members would have a chance to prove themselves. “Light it up and take a puff, pass it to me now,” they sang, and then followed their own advice.
The rapper had something for non-day-ones, too, if such an audience member was present. Tracks like DJ Snake’s “Turn Down for What” and Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” were played for the sake of twerks, but were met with approval and heaving grinding.
“I don’t know if y’all know, but I used to wear Band-Aids on my face,” Nelly said to the crowd. Yes, yes, Nelly, we know.
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And then it happened. The unmistakable beat of “Hot in Herre” crashed through the speakers at 12:30 a.m., when vodka cranberries and IPAs had the crowd moving loosely and determinedly. The track was met with a roar of pleased screams and approving nods. The hype man put a little extra “uuugghhh” in his “ugh”s, and girls secured the sweaters around their waists with a business-like jerk. Not a single person’s lips were closed when it came time to chant, “Giiirl, I think my butt gettin’ big!”
Nelly slowed down the set with “Dilemma,” the 2002 track that featured Kelly Rowland and was always somehow considered sweet despite the subject matter. “If you’ve ever loved anyone, put your hand up,” encouraged the hype man. And whether they had loved someone or not, each person raised a hand.
It seems, friends, that Nelly will be just fine. He’ll go on with his recently established position as a sports analyst on FS1’s Skip and Shannon (and whatever other business venture he can establish) and will live another day. We can take “Hot in Herre” off repeat, commend ourselves for being loyal fans and go on with our lives.