Nelly :: Sweatsuit :: Universal Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Sitting there reading this review you're probably thinking, "Didn't this come out last year? Flash is losing it. He already reviewed this shit. Matter of fact I didn't care much for his review the LAST time." Well you'd be right. Over a year ago Nelly simultaneously released the albums "Sweat" and "Suit" on the same day, and few reviews I've written have ever generated so much buzz - good OR bad. I received some polite criticism of the points in the review (including the fact the "left/right" brain split analogy might be wrong since left to the viewer would actually be Nelly's right) but I also got an incredible amount of HOSTILE feedback that simply couldn't accept that I rated Nelly's double album as a 9 out of 10. Some of it was simple disbelief that a largely pop rap artist could merit that score. Some of it was outright haterizing on the midwest and St. Louis in particular, saying NO music from that area could ever hold a candle to the East/West/South/et cetera. The majority simply felt that I had lost my damn mind, and decided to tell me so with as many four letter words as they could possibly conjure up.

At the end of the day a critic has to stand by his opinions, even (and especially) if they are unpopular. Perhaps I'm just too stubborn for my own good but I answered each and every one of those e-mails. I pointed out that good double albums were a rarity in hip-hop to begin with, and that from my viewpoint Nelly had just released one of the best in the genre's history. Maintaining slick production and a consistant delivery over that many songs would be a damn near impossible task, but he had pulled it off. While just as many people have complained about my "All Eyez On Me" it's hard to argue with the fact that it wasn't CONSISTANT from start to finish. It's a historically important album, and it has some of the best singles 2Pac ever released, but the quality varied wildly from song to song and disc to disc. If it's such a great double album, why did all the big hits come solely off disc one? Nelly however stayed on point and that impressed the hell out of me. Not only that but in terms of songs with radio playable potential, the combined "Sweat" and "Suit" has just as many as "All Eyez on Me" if not more. You've heard them all: "Flap Your Wings," "Over & Over" with Tim McCgraw, "Play it Off" with Pharrell and many more.

Nelly hasn't come up with enough new material in the last year for an entirely new album but he has revisited "Sweat" and "Suit" and decided to combine the best of both into one brand new album. He's also included several hot new songs to enhance the package and make it more attractive. "Grillz" featuring Paul Wall is currently making the rotation on mixtapes and local playlists, and "Nasty Girl" featuring Diddy and Jagged Edge is sure to not be far behind. Even the bouncy "Tired" featuring Avery Storm sounds like it could get some buzz. Let's be fair though - are three new songs really reason enough to justify buying "Sweatsuit" if you already bought both albums last year? No they're not. And if you were a Nelly hater to begin with (as so many people out there seem to be) this isn't going to be the album to change your mind. In paring the two discs down to one Nelly's focus was inevitably to include the more commercial friendly songs like "Pretty Toes" featuring Jazze Pha and T.I., or "Playa" featuring Mobb Deep and Missy Elliott. So many people automatically equate "pop" with "bad" that this is all the ammunition they'll need to say Nelly is soft; never mind that the hook of his first single ever was an ode to spraying people with automatic weapons. Nelly isn't the savior of hip-hop or the Anti-Christ, he's not all good or all evil, he's not all pop or all street. He is what he is though - a songwriter with a flair for making music people like to hear as much booming out the stereo as they do blasting on the dancefloor.

Nelly will not change the opinion of his critics any more than my opinion has been changed about the quality of "Sweat" and "Suit." Does combining the two into one album improve it? No. Does it detract from the original presentation? Perhaps in this case it does a little bit. Usually double albums have so much filler that combining the two into one would have been a good idea, but in this case a lot of Nelly's material that was not automatically geared for a pop audience has been discarded in favor of making this album more attractive to new buyers who didn't get either CD last year. Musically though he's still as consistant as they come and that distinctive St. Louis accent is still in effect on his confidant lyrical flow. Everybody will come out of the woodwork to say he's not the man, but his albums keep selling like he IS the man, and unlike Vanilla Ice the music industry doesn't have to use trickery or deception to keep pushing those units. Nelly is exactly what he says he is - a little bit country, a little bit pimp, and a little bit commercial. "Sweatsuit" doesn't break new ground, but maybe it could in the end open a few minds and a few new doors for people who thought he was okay but just didn't want to buy two seperate albums. Will people still write and say he didn't deserve this score? Of course they will. As far as I'm concerned though they're either all right or they're all wrong. If I was wrong about Nelly, then I was wrong about Jeru and Nas and Aceyalone and Blackalicious too. The score should not be more important than the review anyway. This is an invitation for you to make a purchasing decision, not a definitive statement that he's better than {insert your favorite underground lyricist here} at making music. Nelly makes his kind of music, and it's hip-hop that's a little bit pop. That may not work for you but personally, I can dig it.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: November 22, 2005