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    Nelly:

    Suit

    Tue, 21 Sep 2004 12:21:48

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    Album Reviews: Suit by Nelly

    Like a lot multi-platinum rappers before him, Nelly's had to weather accusations that he's more pop than hip-hop, more strip mall than street. And by splitting his latest batch of songs into two separate albums, he's inadvertently proved his critics right. Suit, the more "uptown" companion piece to the grimier, clubbier Sweat, is by far the better of the two discs. And yes, it's more pop than hip-hop. It samples Spandau Ballet, for god's sake.

    Not that there's anything wrong with pop, though I'm sure Nelly would protest that label, and be quick to point to such ghetto fabulous tracks as "Woodgrain and Leather Wit a Hole" as proof that, riches and fame aside, he's still the same old baller from the STL. But even when he's breaking out the pimp juice and slinging streetwise rhymes, Nelly's best moments on Suit are all about riding an irresistible groove into a big, catchy chorus that Britney Spears would envy. And unlike on the oddly serious, chest-thumping Sweat, Nelly sounds like he's having fun here, cheerfully trading rhymes with Mase and Avery Storm on "In My Life" and getting all twangy and soulful with Tim McGraw, of all people, on the sweet "Over and Over."

    The lead single "My Place" is an obvious highlight, but the Jazze Pha-produced "Pretty Toes" may be even better, an old-school slow jam that's crying out for a club-friendly remix. And the closer, "Die For You," is another standout, a bittersweet track about the difficulties of fatherhood that's the most honest, moving thing Nelly's ever recorded. Such moments bode well for Nelly's growth not only as a pop icon, but as a genuine artist, especially now that he's gotten the Sweat out of his system. - Andy Hermann

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