With his following albums, Nellyville (2002) and the same-day dual release Sweat and Suit (2004) and compilation Sweatsuit (2006), Nelly continued to generate many chart-topping hits. The rapper's fifth studio album, Brass Knuckles, was released released on September 16, 2008 after several delays. It is Nelly's first album not to be certified platinum. The first official single, "Party People, which features Fergie, was released on March 18, 2008, and peaked at 40 on the US "Billboard Hot 100" and 14 on the "UK Singles Chart". "Stepped on My J'z" which features Ciara and Jermaine Dupri, was released as the second single from the album on June 11, 2008. It peaked at number 90 on the US Hot 100. The third official single, "Body on Me", which features Akon and Ashanti, was released on June 9, 2008 and peaked at number 42 on the US Hot 100 and 17 on the "UK Singles Chart".
He won Grammy Awards in 2003 and 2004 and starred in the 2005 remake film The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. He has two clothing lines, Vokal and Apple Bottoms. He has been referred to by Peter Shapiro as "one of the biggest stars of the new millennium", and the RIAA ranks Nelly as one of the best-selling male artists in American music history, with 21 million albums sold in the United States. On December 11th, 2009 Nelly was ranked as the 3rd Top Overall Artist of the 2000-2009 decade by Billboard Magazine.
Nelly was born in Austin, Texas and moved with his mother to suburban University City, Missouri as a teenager.
He was soon signed to Universal Music Group, which released his major label debut Country Grammar in 2000. The success of its title track as a single (#7 on the Hot 100 and #1 Hot Rap Tracks) led to the album debuting at number three in the Billboard 200 in the U.S. Other singles from the album included "E.I.", "Ride Wit Me", and "Batter Up". The album was certified 9× platinum by the RIAA on April 27, 2004.
Nelly joined rappers Ali, Murphy Lee, Kyjuan and City Spud to form the group St. Lunatics, the group became popular with its single "Gimme What You Got". Free City, recorded with the St. Lunatics, followed in 2001 with the single "Midwest Swing". Nelly recorded "#1" for the soundtrack to the film Training Day that year. Nelly appeared on the songs "Where the Party At" by Jagged Edge and "Girlfriend" by 'N Sync. Free City has sold more than a million units in the United States.
In 2009, the St. Lunatics were reportedly working on a new album City Free to be released in the summer of 2009 however the album has been pushed back indefinitely. The first track called "St. Lunatics", was already leaked in early March 2009, other track leaked is "Get Low 2 Da Flo", produced by Play-N-Skillz.. The first official single released from the album is "Money Talks" featuring rapper Birdman.
In 2002, Nelly's second album Nellyville was released, debuting at #1 on Billboard's Top 200 Music Albums ; its lead single "Hot in Herre" was a number-one hit. Other singles included "Dilemma" featuring Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, "Work It" featuring Justin Timberlake, "Air Force Ones" featuring Murphy Lee and the St. Lunatics, "Pimp Juice", and "#1". This album was highly successful and was certified 6x multi-platinum on June 27, 2003.
In 2003 Nelly released Da Derrty Versions: The Reinvention. It featured the hit single "Iz U" from the soundtrack to Walt Disney's The Haunted Mansion. The music video for "Tip Drill" became a source of controversy due to perceptions of misogynistic depictions of women. The controversy forced Nelly to cancel an appearance at a bone marrow drive at Spelman College, a historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia. Similar claims of misogyny also surrounded Nelly's single "Pimp Juice".RIAA have certified the album Platinum.
On September 14, 2004, Nelly released two albums, Sweat and Suit. Suit, an R&B-oriented album, debuted at number one on the Billboard albums chart, and Sweat, a rap-oriented album, debuted at number two. From Suit, the slow ballad "Over and Over", an unlikely duet with country music star Tim McGraw, became a crossover hit. On the 2004 NBC television concert special Tim McGraw: Here and Now, McGraw and Nelly performed the song. A feud with another St. Louis-based rapper, Chingy, came up near the end of the year. Tsunami Aid: A Concert for Hope, a 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake benefit concert special produced by NBC, featured Nelly. In the winter of 2005 came Sweatsuit, a compilation of tracks from Sweat and Suit with three new tracks. "Grillz", produced by Jermaine Dupri, was a number-one hit. To date both albums have sold over 5 million units in the United States.
Brass Knuckles was released on September 16, 2008, after several delays, Initial release dates for the album targeted October 16 and November 13. Its original lead single was "Wadsyaname", a ballad-oriented track produced by Ron "NEFF-U" Feemstar and sampling the piano riff from "All My Life" by K-Ci & JoJo. Nelly later confirmed that "Wadsyaname" was never going to be on 'Brass Knuckles'. Nelly recorded Party People", featuring Fergie and produced by Polow da Don, which turned out to be his first official single off the album." Stepped On My J'z" was the next single, produced by Jermaine Dupri and featuring Dupri and Ciara; following that was "Body On Me", produced by Akon and featuring Akon and Ashanti. Nelly appeared on Rick Ross's third single "Here I Am" also featuring label mate Avery Storm.
In the summer of 2009, Nelly made a public announcement in Las Vegas about the yet-to-be-titled album. In October 2009, Nelly did an interview with SOHH.com and said that the album was going to be released sometime in 2010. In a interview with Semtex TV, Nelly told reporters that he planned to release the album under the name Nelly. In April 2010, Nelly's cousin Michael Johnson was murdered in Missouri, Nelly said that he delayed releasing the album because of this. Nelly said that guests that were going to be featured on the album were: Janet Jackson, Diddy, Akon, St. Lunatics and Usher. In May 2010, Nelly confirmed that the title of the album was 5.0. The album is scheduled to be released on November 16, 2010.
Nelly’s rapping style has been described by Peter Shapiro as using "unforgettable hooks based on schoolyard songs, double-dutch chants, and nonsense rhymes" and has a "Missouri twang". Allmusic suggests Nelly's style is based largely on where he comes from - "Nelly's locale certainly informs his rapping style, which is as much country as urban, and his dialect as well, which is as much Southern drawl as Midwestern twang". Nelly explains his method of writing in the book How to Rap, describing how he freestyles most of the lyrics before going back over them to "make it a little tighter", he generally writes in the studio rather than at home, he normally comes up with a chorus for a song before writing the verses, and he likes to write to the music he will be rapping over. Allmusic also notes his "tongue-twisting" hooks, which are also often sung rather than rapped.
Nike and Nelly agreed on a one-year deal in 2003 to release a limited-edition sneaker called the "Air Derrty" which was a retro remake of Charles Barkley's signature sneaker. Nelly later signed a shoe deal with Reebok.
Nelly has done ads for Got Milk and the Ford Motor Company. His energy drink Pimp Juice sold one million cans during the first two months after its introduction in August 2003, and was criticized for its name by black consumer activists. Nelly owns Apple Bottoms, a female clothing line, and Vokal, which caters to men. He was one of the owners of the Charlotte Bobcats, along with Robert L. Johnson and Michael Jordan until Jordan became the new owner in March of 2010.
Nelly played in the Main Event at the 2007 World Series of Poker.
In August, 2010, Nelly started a temporary stint as the afternoon host on WHHL HOT 104.1 in St. Louis. He is taking the place of regular PM drive personality, Stacy Static, who is on pregnancy leave. According STLtoday, the initial ratings for the show are very high. This gig garnered national attention in the Huffington Post and other websites.
Nelly runs the non-profit organization "4Sho4Kids Foundation." The "Jes Us 4 Jackie" campaign began in March 2003 by Nelly and his sister Jackie Donahue after Donahue was diagnosed with leukemia. The campaign attempts to educate African-Americans and other minorities about the need for bone marrow transplants, and to register more donors. Donahue lost her battle with leukemia on March 24, 2005, almost two years after the campaign began.
Nelly starred in Snipes (2001), and the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. The soundtrack of the latter includes Nelly's song "Fly Away". In a June 2008 interview with Kiwibox.com, Nelly revealed that he is reluctant to continue his acting career, noting that he does not want to "take away from the culture of acting." In 2008 and 2009, Nelly appeared in episodes of the CBS crime drama CSI: NY.