In 2004, rapper Nelly released the song “Over and Over” from his album Suit (a companion to his collection Sweat that was released the same day). Singing the hook on that song — a Number Three hit in the United States — was Tim McGraw, marking an early cross-genre collaboration between country music and the hip-hop community.
The “Hot in Herre” rapper also turned up on a 2013 remix of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” helping to make it one of the largest country chart hits of the last decade. He’s hinted at doing a more country-themed release at some point, but has insisted it won’t be a full-on country album.
In the meantime, Nelly has released a pretty straightforward cover of a recent country hit, Thomas Rhett’s multi-week smash “Die a Happy Man.” Nelly’s version (listen below) replaces Rhett’s subtle electric guitar strums with a looping piano riff and a booming drum break, which he punctuates with ad-libbed exclamations. Lyrically and melodically, he stays true to the original, singing with the same relaxed confidence that made massive hits of his songs like “Ride Wit Me” and “Air Force Ones.” The song is the follow-up to “The Fix,” featuring Jeremih.
“Die a Happy Man” recently enjoyed a multi-week run at the top of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, matching a previously long stay at Number One in 2008 by Taylor Swift. Earlier this week, the song picked up an ACM Award nomination for Single Record of the Year, giving Rhett a total of three nominations — including an Album of the Year nod for Tangled Up.
Seeing the success of “Die a Happy Man,” Rhett notes he’s cautious not to obsess over it but feels like it’s a license to write from the gut instead of chasing the market. In this case, he wrote about the love he felt for his wife Lauren and it turned into what will certainly be one of 2016’s biggest hits.
“A lot of the time it scares me when people say, ‘Hey, you just had your career record,’ because that just means that everything from here on out is downhill and is gonna sound like crap,” he jokes. “It is a career record but it’s also just a starting point for me. It’s fun to have a song like that that I can build on and continue to know that I can write songs about my wife, and be really personal about my life and have the public be interested in them. . . It’s given me a lot of confidence to go write from the heart more rather than just try to go write the hits.”
So far, no collaborations have been announced between Rhett and Nelly. Rhett is currently on the road supporting Jason Aldean’s winter/spring tour and has released the up-tempo track “T-Shirt” as the follow-up to “Die a Happy Man.”