R&B producer Nelly, who wrote the lyrics to “What U Want, Mama” and has collaborated with artists like Beyonce, Janelle Monáe and Madonna, was a teenager in Brooklyn.
He had a girlfriend who was also part of an R&B group, the Nelly Tubes (who later dropped a joint CD with Nelly titled The Dopeness of Nelly).
During high school in the early 1980s, Nelly met one of his first mentors, Roy “DJ T.I.” Harris, another Queens native. T.I. and Nelly got started in music together. The duo began recording songs, but Harris quickly abandoned them. They released one track in 1983 called “Love Shack” on a local station. After that, they became famous in the city for their music. T.I. and Nelly were both arrested on drug charges in 1987, but each of them went to jail for a year.
Nelly and his brother, J-Cee, opened for groups like the Fat Boys, the Mojo Brothers, Mott The Hoople and a couple of other acts in Brooklyn’s Chinatown district. They recorded two full-length albums during that time: 1983’s “Nasty Nelly 2” and 1984’s “Nasty Nelly and the Funky Boys.”
Nelly was known for being very opinionated — he called himself the King of Lips in 1990. It was this persona that landed him a spot on the “Today” show with then-host Katie Couric. Nelly was also a fan of comedian Robin Williams and made appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” “Tosh.0” and “Sixty Minutes.” He even appeared in “Tremors,” a 1997 comedy about a haunted house, as he was seen by his then-girlfriend on their way to the party, who was apparently playing the piano.
Nelly was also known for having a very bad temper, even when he was recording. He famously threw a fight with producer Tommy Mott in 1985, resulting in Nelly being arrested along with his brother.
Is there one piece of evidence that says T.I. and Nas influenced Nelly?
Not one. But in the last decade, T.I. has been very vocal about Nelly and the early music of his mentor and mentor’s co-conspirator, Nelly. In 2009, T.I. recorded a song on his album ”
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