Several music artists from various backgrounds have broken new ground in country music over the years. Take, for example, pop star P!nk. She previously collaborated on “One Too Many” with Keith Urban. Then there’s Lil Nas X, who joined forces with Billy Ray Cyrus for “Old Town Road.”
You could say that hip-hop star Nelly helped pave the way for artists such as these to crossover into the country genre. Fans will recall, in 2004, the rapper duetted with Tim McGraw on the popular track, “Over And Over.” More recently, he joined forces with Kane Brown on the breezy track, “Cool Again.” Before that, he was featured on a remix of Florida Georgia Line’s 2013 smash, “Cruise.”
Now, Nelly has teamed up with Florida Georgia Line once again, this time, on an infectious party anthem called “Lil Bit.” Nelly and the award-winning country duo recently debuted the music video for the song, and it’s everything listeners need to get ready for summertime! The Nashville-filmed clip, which stars FGL’s Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard with Nelly, finds the guys having fun together while driving around music city in flashy cars. Meanwhile, a team of dancers is shown dancing to the beat, as FGL and Nelly sing the lyrics to the incredibly catchy tune.
She said, “Take me to the country / Show me where you from” / I said, “Shawty, you gon’ love me / And we gon’ have some fun” / I bring out my big wheel / And you can climb on up / Girl, I think you a big deal / Now show your boy some love,” the artists sing while backed by a thumping hip-hop beat, and added-in banjos for good measure. “Huh, just a lil’ bit / Just a lil’ bit (uh) / Just a lil’ bit (yeah) / Just a lil’ bit (uh) / We gon’ have some fun / Just a lil’ bit (uh) / Just a lil’ bit (yeah) / Just a lil’ bit / Yeah, we gon’ have some.”
Of filming for the video, Nelly told Music Mayhem, “We just kept it simple, just having a little fun, just a little bit. You know what I mean? And we rolled out, man, and we had a little kickback out by the lake and things like that, and we just genuinely found our energy, and our connection.”
A fast track, “Little Bit,” was co-written by Hubbard and Nelly with country artist Blake Redferrin and producer Jordan Schmidt. The tune is the first single from Nelly’s upcoming EP entitled, The Heartland, which he calls country-influenced. The highly-anticipated project is slated to drop in August of 2021.
“With this project, I like to call it a lot of country club bangers. You know what I’m saying? So, you know, it’s just got that… You know, obviously, Nelly is not a country artist… but this is, I call it country influence because this is music from Nelly that is influenced by country. It’s my appreciation for country music,” Nelly explained. “It’s my thanks for country music, the whole world of country music, for allowing Nelly to be a part of it, for allowing Nelly to be. So, this is what Nelly’s bringing to a side of country music that other people probably couldn’t write. And not be able to mesh the two. So yeah, I like to call this a bunch of country club bangers, man. And I think this project is the perfect summer anthem, not just for Nelly fans, not just for country music, but just music period.”
Nelly caught up with Music Mayhem to talk about “Lil Bit” featuring FGL, the accompanying video for the track, his upcoming EP, as well as his role in being one of the first hip hop and rap artists to break into the country genre.
Read on to find out more about what Nelly has been up to in this exclusive Q&A below.
Let’s first talk about your single, “Lil Bit” with Florida Georgia Line. I mean the song’s been climbing the charts and it’s been most added at country radio. Can you tell us a little bit about your brotherhood with FGL, and how it feels to achieve such heights of success alongside them through the years? I mean you guys have a diamond record together too.
Yeah, man, yeah, I mean all that. Everything you said and more, you know, we’re very fortunate and blessed to have that type of success. You know, it’s, and I explained this story a few times, it is different when you can genuinely watch somebody’s success, so to speak, and don’t get it twisted, when I had met Florida Georgia Line, they had already had success, they were already, you know, pretty big in the country world, I would say. Definitely with “Cruise” before we remixed it, but when you get a chance to see guys from being these artists and having these aspirations of, you know, things that they truly want to come. From the first time I met them, they were all bachelors, young bachelors, you know what I’m saying? Just FGL, you know, just fun guys, to now being these huge stars, to having families, and [Tyler Hubbard] becoming a father, and you know, you watch them grow, and basically achieve all that they possibly wanted and dreamed of, and being able to help their families and things like that.
So it is a benefit for me because you know, when you get a chance to watch from the outside looking in, especially with people who you genuinely care for and who you genuinely call friends and family, you just want the best for them. And to watch them become who they wanted to become was just dope. So as far as the music goes, man, I just think, you know, don’t get it twisted, I know FGL are fans of Nelly. I don’t want to date myself, you know, my music probably helped raise them (laughing), you know what I mean, but when you get a chance to come in and you just have a mutual respect for each other, and then you’re able to create something that the whole world can enjoy, and you did it. I don’t want to say that we do it easily, but when we’re having fun, when we’re in the studio, when we’re making music because I think we both have an understanding of where we want the music to come from, and when that aligns, we get things such as the “Cruise” remake, such as “Lil Bit,” such as a few other songs that we’ve done that we don’t know what we’re gonna do with yet, but just crazy, man. We have fun recording, so, yeah, they are all little brothers to me, and I’m just so happy to watch them become the men that they are, the husbands that they are, the fathers that they are, and yeah, yeah, they’re my cats.
Yeah, I mean, they’re also working on their own solo projects, so maybe something will come out of it for you guys.
Yeah, you never know.
So, you and FGL just filmed a music video for “Lil Bit” just a few weeks ago. Can you take us through the video shoot maybe, and tell us like where it was filmed and the concept behind the video?
Yeah, well, we filmed it in Nashville. I don’t know exactly where I was, my phone wasn’t working all the way. I had to stand by a tree and hold my left arm up sometimes, just to get some signals, but it was really dope. It was really dope, man. The area’s real serene, But the concept of the video is Nelly coming to Nashville for the weekend to hang out. We just kept it simple , just having a little fun, just a little bit. You know what I mean? And we rolled out, man, and we had a little kickback out by the lake and things like that, and we just genuinely found our energy, and our connection. And yeah, I can’t wait for people to see it. It came out pretty good.
So, I mean, in the “Lil Bit” teaser clip you shared through your Instagram story, they even made a Bobblehead of you, I mean, that’s pretty cool.
So, obviously, you’re no stranger to country music, and you were actually one of the first hip hop artists to break the barrier and cross over into the country genre, back when you released the Tim McGraw single, “Over and Over.” So, could you tell us how it feels to be one of the first out of genre artists to cross over into country music, and then, not only crossover, but make waves doing so, and continue to make waves in the country music genre?
Yeah. Well, that’s a blessing as well because I’m a firm believer that music transcends all boundaries and genres. I mean, you know, if you could make something that people can really emotionally connect with on different waves, I think we can all come together. I firmly believe that music and sports are the two things, no matter what background you’re from, no matter where you’re from, that you could come together for a common cause and feel good about it from the inside out.
As long as you work at it. And, yeah, man, that’s just always been my goal since I came out musically, period, was to come out different, was to do things differently, was to try to create something that could be a staple almost. You know what I mean? Like, I always believed, if you could be first at something, I feel like you have a better chance of lasting forever. People remembering you, I mean, that’s kinda like what we all want to do is just be remembered and have an impact and contribute to whatever profession that you’re doing in a way that you’re helping make history.
And I remember when I wanted to do “Over and Over,” obviously, everybody wasn’t happy about it. You know, it was at a peak in my career, where I mean I’m just coming off of Nellyville, you know what I mean? Yeah, I’m coming off “Hot In Herre” and “Dilemma” and my next project. I was like, yo, I wanna do something different. You know, and everybody was like, are you sure this is what you wanna do? And shout out to Tim McGraw, because I mean, he took a chance as well. I mean, here we’re talking about 2004/2005, Tim McGraw is like, what, the biggest country star in music at this time, if not one of the two. And he took a chance with a rapper and understanding what I was trying to do and create something, so as much as I’d love to take credit, I’ve got to give credit to Tim [McGraw] as well because he stepped out there on that limb as well and was able to help make something that people talk about to this day, and hopefully has started, you know, something new.
Since you’ve broken that barrier, you’ve definitely started something there. I mean, there’s been smash records across genres, like, I mean, Keith Urban and Pink and Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X. I mean, you definitely made a difference there and a huge impact in the country, and definitely started something else.
Do you feel as though this new EP was kind of written with the live music aspect in mind, like kind of bringing the high energy of live shows onto a record? Can you tell us how the EP came to be?
Some years back, I went to my first CMT awards. I went to some CMA awards, and all that, and after the awards, we would go to the after-parties. And all of the after-parties would be just like any other regular after-parties. And when you walk in, they’re not really playing country music at the after-parties. You go to the after-parties, I mean, they’re basically playing the same shit that you would hear if this was the MTV awards.
If this was the BET awards. They’re playing all the hits, and I think, I’m like, damn, I was like, yo, this is something, like, it struck me, it was just like, yo, everybody loves to turn up and have fun the same way. No matter what the music is, this may be your music, but when you come to partying, it’s partying the same way, and I was just like, well, why isn’t there any music in this genre being made for this situation? You know, and it kinda, I was just like blown away, and that kind of put a light bulb. So, with this project, I like to call it a lot of country club bangers. You know what I’m saying? So, you know, it’s just got that… You know, obviously, Nelly is not a country artist… but I call it country influenced because this is music from Nelly that is influenced by country. It’s my appreciation for country music. It’s my thanks for country music, the whole world of country music, for allowing Nelly to be a part of it, for allowing Nelly to be. So, this is what Nelly’s bringing to a side of country music that other people probably couldn’t write. And not be able to mesh the two. So yeah, I like to call this a bunch of country club bangers, man. And I think this project is the perfect summer anthem, not just for Nelly fans, not just for country music, but just music period. And it’s all influenced by country [music], but it’s a Nelly project.
So, going back to the topic of the EP, you’re obviously gonna have some solo stuff, but also some collaborations…What else can we expect from the EP, and could you tell us maybe a few of the country artists that have influenced your career, or maybe the project, specifically?
Yeah, man, well, I’ve been, like I said, I was raised in St. Louis, obviously the Midwest. I was born in Texas, so born in the south, raised in the heartland, you know what I mean? So kinda like the country thing was probably gonna be inevitable for me not to escape. But I got turned on to country music through a different source than people might suspect, because my uncle, who is no longer with us right now, is the person who really got me into music. Him and my father used to do a lot of music. They used to have these little groups and things. My uncle played a lot of music and wrote a lot of music, but he was a huge Lionel Richie fan, and I got turned on to all things Lionel Richie, including songwriting, and once I found out that Lionel Richie used to write all these great songs, not just for his genre of music, not just for pop, R&B, and things like that, but he was writing country for Kenny Rogers and a host of other people, and I kinda got turned on to country music through Kenny, you know. And then once you find out about Kenny, you know, obviously, you start doing your research… George Strait, you know, Hank [Williams], Reba [McEntire]… You start listening to all that… Charley Pride, you know what I’m saying? And you start just, you know, running through your list, man, and just paying attention to a great genre of music, and seeing how you can relate to a lot of it because it’s all great music once you listen to it. And, you know, the thing about, I wouldn’t say that it inspires my writing, it more or less inspires my feelings, because if you listen to a lot of the music, even if you listen to Lil Bit, it’s still Nelly doing Nelly on the music.
You know what I’m saying? It’s a different pocket with a different feel, and that’s what I like to say that it’s two generations of each music type, I like to say. You have your traditional generation of music, and you always got your new wave generation of music. And each genre of music has it. You have hip hop, you have the hip hop purists that don’t like the new hip hop (laughing), because they want the hip hop to remain there. And it’s the same thing, it’s like R&B, you got the new R&B, you have the old R &; B. It’s the same thing with country. You have traditional country, but you also have young country, and I don’t think you are able to find a country artist or a country fan that’s 50 years or younger in age that doesn’t have some type of affinity or appreciation for hip hop somewhere. They like some type of hip hop. Even though country music is their heart, it’s their love, it’s what they do, they like some type of hip hop. And I just think that energy, that hip hop brings, and that only hip hop brings, is what’s allowing the blend of what’s going on right now. So I’m just doing Nelly and just trying to incorporate the true feeling of what being from where we’re from as far as the country, and not just also grass roots country, because you know, you just don’t have, you know, you got Nashville in the backwoods, you got downtown Nashville as well. You know what I’m saying? Like, I’m more of a downtown Nashville kinda guy, you know what I mean?
I mean, don’t get it twisted, I go kick it, you know, I ride, I’ll do whatever in the trees as well, but I’m more of a downtown Nashville kind of guy. You know what I mean? So I just think that country music is the country music like that I think “Lil Bit” is speaking for on this album.