Fifteen years after the release of his debut album, Country Grammar, Nelly is gearing up to record a proper country record.
The news arrived earlier this week courtesy of the rapper’s new manager, J. Erving, who announced Nelly’s crossover plans during an interview with Billboard.
“He’s a free agent on the label side now,” Erving explained, “and is working on a country-based Heartland EP, which should be really interesting. He may be one of the first hip-hop artists to jump into that space in an authentic way with Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw, so we think he has an opportunity to grow that base even more.”
A native of St. Louis, Nelly has often mixed a drawling, rural twang with his hip-hop hooks, although he didn’t fully embrace country music until 2004. That year, he scored an international hit with “Over and Over,” a genre-bending collaboration with “Live Like You Were Dying”-era Tim McGraw. Nine years later, Nelly teamed up with Florida Georgia Line for a popular remix of “Cruise,” whose sales helped the song become the top-selling digital country single of all time.
Florida Georgia Line returned the favor by appearing on 2013’s M.O., Nelly’s last solo album. The record sold roughly 25,000 copies during its first month of release, though, making it a commercial flop by Nelly’s usual standards. Earlier this month, the rapper ran afoul of the law in Putnam County, Tennessee, when marijuana, methamphetamines and numerous firearms were found aboard his tour bus, roughly 80 miles east of Nashville.