However, if I were to don my cynical hat (fashioned by an especially jaundiced milliner of my acquaintance), I may have been moved to observe that this might be the record company’s way of getting some Nelly product in the shops before Christmas. All achieved without doing anything as old-fashioned as, you know, writing an album’s worth of new material.
Thankfully, my barnet is chapeau-free today, so I can assess Mr Cornell Haynes’ latest extended set without questioning whether this flagrantly commercial release is a bit of a shuck. So I’ve made my mind-up to listen to Da Derrty Versions as a “Best Of” with a spin.
Naturally enough we get the monster hits, as familiar to us as the plast-a that adorns Nelly’s cheekbone. Some more welcome than others, natch. Nell’s chums, The Basement Boys, have remixed Hot In Herre, the libidinous funk work-out that deserves to share mattress space with James Brown‘s Sex Machine in the Bump ‘n’ Grind Hall Of Fame.
There’s been some early House piano slipped on top of The Neptunes breathless original (think Inner City), but it just doesn’t bounce out of the sound system with the same elasticity. Country Grammar also suffers from the extra knob-twiddling and added vocals, but really these are records of such self-assurance that even sharing vocals with Sting couldn’t ruin them.
Elsewhere, we get the megaton-selling Dilemma. You know the one. It’s the one where Nelly gets to rub-up to one of Mr and Mrs Destiny’s less-famous bairns, while said Child admits to “going crazy” about Nell even when she’s with her “boo”. I wonder if her boo’s clicked by now. Ride Wit Me is also in attendance, sounding a bit worryingly like something Five may have put together. I think we can all agree that’s not a good thing.
One of the all-new tracks, and also the lead single, Iz U, certifies Nell’s interest in fast cars and fast girls, while the actually avoidable King’s Highway brings fast food bizarrely into the equation.
Sports cars abound in Da Derrty Versions (The Reinvention, don’t forget). In Iz U, the understated Nelly visibly leaves his Lamborghini outside the club so he can take that “ass with him now”. You can bet that’s no pastoral reference, and it sure beats, “Get your coat luv, you’ve pulled.” Just.
There’s a bit too much ROCK guitar hanging around Air Force Ones while Groovin’ Tonight unpleasantly recalls the ’80s suit and ‘tache era of R ‘n’ B. It confirms that Nelly is at his best with his hollering raps and low-slung beats without drifting too far into the dark waters of diversification.
That said, there are enough shades in Nelly’s palette to get away with duets with the ubiquitous Justin Timberlake (Work It) and the great blaxploitation treatment given to Pimp Juice that features the sweet falsetto of the mighty Ron Isley.
I don’t know exactly what Pimp Juice is but I’m fairly sure The Man From Del Monte isn’t involved.