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Nelly raps early hits in Spring Fair performance

By AMANDA AUBLE | April 30, 2015

Grammy Award-winning rapper Nelly revived his early 2000s hits with a modern energy during this year’s Spring Fair Concert held in the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center on Friday.

The St. Louis rapper, whose real name is Cornell Haynes, Jr., released his debut best-selling album Country Grammar in 2000. Nelly set himself apart in the rap world using his Midwestern twang and catchy hooks in songs like “Ride Wit Me” and “E.I.”

His second album Nellyville, which featured the songs “Hot in Herre” and “Dilemma,” won him Grammys for Best Male Rap Solo Performance and for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, respectively.

After audience chants called the artist to the stage, Nelly arrived in a hooded, sleeveless Hopkins sweatshirt. A few Hopkins students in the audience paid homage to Nelly’s early 2000s style and wore bandages on their faces.

Nelly’s set opened with “Country Grammar (Hot S**t)” and the audience instantly started singing along to the familiar lyrics. Not hesitating to highlight the songs that fans remembered best, Nelly and another member of his entourage provided fun banter with the audience throughout the show.

With many of these hit songs, Nelly allowed fans to sing most of the lyrics, only inserting cues like “hands up” to pump up the crowd. However, when he shifted into lesser known songs and when his DJ played other artists’ songs, like Big Sean’s “I Don’t F*** With You,” it created a lull in the concert’s overall energy.

In the show’s most interactive moment, Nelly scoured the crowd for some of his biggest fans who would know all of his lyrics. He selected three female audience members from the crowd and allowed each of them to experience a unique moment onstage.

“I had been mentioning it to my friends the entire semester that I wanted to dance with Nelly onstage, mostly joking since I was pretty sure it wouldn’t happen,” junior Jasmine Mariah wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “So when his fellow performer pointed at me to come up I couldn’t really process it until the song was over.”

In her moment on stage, Mariah was asked to strut across stage with confidence as Nelly began to serenade her with his song “Body on Me.” The two danced closely on stage to audience members’ cheers.

When he addressed the second female fan, Nelly humorously mentioned his recent legal troubles, saying that he wanted to apologize and that he believed in second chances. With this apologetic tone set, Nelly serenaded the fan with his song “Over and Over.”

He gave a third female fan the microphone and asked her to sing alongside him in a duet. Although initially apprehensive, when the familiar beat of “Dilemma” played, the fan enthusiastically sang over Kelly Rowland’s original, prerecorded vocals.

This interactive part of the show not only provided an entertaining moment for audience members, but also lasting memory for three dedicated Nelly fans.

“Being onstage before that huge crowd was surreal and when I was dancing with him, I wasn’t thinking at all! A lot of people asked me how I kept my composure and honestly it’s cause the full wave of emotions hit me as soon as I walked away from him. It was one of the most memorable and exciting experiences I’ll ever have!” Mariah wrote.

Throughout the night, fans were encouraged to sing along to lyrics. However, during Nelly’s performance of “Hot in Herre” the Hopkins audience fumbled when Nelly prompted them to chant the rap without any music. Despite this embarrassing mishap, Nelly remained humorous, teasing the audience and allowing them to attempt the rap again.

Nelly closed his show with 2010’s “Just a Dream.” The audience responded strongly to this more emotional song, especially when Nelly sang the lyrics “If you’ve ever loved somebody put your hands up.” With the show ending, audience members who hoped to relive some of their favorite Nelly songs were not disappointed.

Luke Christopher, a Los Angeles rapper best known for his songs “Ms. Holy Water” and “Life Jackets,” opened the show.

Although the status of the concert was uncertain after Nelly’s arrest in Tennessee on April 10, Spring Fair announced on April 17 that the concert was still on.

Nelly was released on $10,000 bond after law enforcement found crystal methamphetamines, marijuana and firearms on his tour bus. He will appear in court in Tennessee on June 19.

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