‘He’s going to have to pay the price’

‘He’s going to have to pay the price’

Grammy-winning rapper Nelly tells Faisal Khan the truth about his recent legal scrape ahead of tomorrow’s Atelier Festival

This isn’t your first time in Dubai. What do you like about performing here?

Dubai is great. The crowd has a real energy to it, and the audience is really excited to participate in the show.

You’re a very successful entrepreneur as well. What are some of your more interesting ventures?

I’m very focused on my music, but it’s important for me to do other things which I enjoy. There is the jeans store, Apple Bottoms, which is doing really well in Dubai. Staying in shape is something that I truly love, I’m looking to do more television and obviously the work that I do with children is also very important. I came up with a concept called Celebrity Sweat, in which we get a behind-the-scenes look at the workout routines of some celebrities and athletes. The aim is to try and help kids get motivated to live a healthier life by spending more time outdoors and less time in front of the TV and X-Box. I’m also coming up with my own line of supplements to help build muscle mass and strength.

Who were some of your musical influences when you were growing up?

Obviously hip-hop has been a big part of my past, especially the last 14 years, and I’ve been influenced by some of the greats like LL Cool J, Biggie, Tupac and NWA. But I also have a lot of rock influences such as Prince and Michael Jackson. I even like Elton John and The Beatles!

What are some of your most memorable musical collaborations?

I enjoy collaborating because the creative process is different when you work with different people, and it’s good when creative collaborations are appreciated by listeners. I’ve collaborated with many artists and have covered different genres. I’ve worked with people like Paul Wall, Ali & Gipp on Grillz, but also with country singers like Tim McGraw. One of my all-time favourite collaborations is with Kelly Rowland (Dilemma). On my new album I haven’t had a chance to get to the collaboration part yet – let’s see how it works out. I’m saving some of the suspense so I won’t tell you all the collaborations in my upcoming album, but you may have already heard my song Marry Go Round featuring Chris Brown, which has been turning on the heat here in the States.

Do you prefer recording songs in the studio or performing them on stage?

The mindset between being in a studio and being on stage is totally different. In the studio, you are busy creating something and sometimes while recording you have no idea what the end result of the song will be. On stage, you are performing the song that you created in the studio. I think being on stage is more fun because it is a celebration of your creativity in the studio. I am heavily involved in recording and producing my tracks.

Your tour bus was recently raided by the police, who found drugs and a gun. How was that experience?

I was released in a couple of hours, but unfortunately someone from my crew made a really stupid mistake and he’s going to have to pay the price for that. Our working relationship has been strained because of it.

What’s on your iPod right now?

Since I’m working on my album these days, I’m mostly listening to a lot of beats from several producers. When I’m not recording, I listen to a lot of different types of music – I love everybody from Lil Wayne to Adele. The new tracks by TI and Rick Ross are very popular these days and I’ve been listening to those a lot.

How well do you know some of the other acts performing on Friday?

Me and 50 Cent have been cool. Get Rich Or Die Trying is one of my all-time favourite albums, and I definitely have a lot of love and respect for 50. I’ve worked with Ciara before on my Brass Knuckles album, which was great.

The stage is set

Atelier Festival-bound R&B crooner Craig David tells Adam Zacharias about working for the United Nations, working with the Backstreet Boys and working out

What’s your balance between work and play these days?

I think it has to be completely 50/50. But if you live in the moment and allow yourself to be focused, you’ll enjoy any process that you do and you’ll get the best out of yourself.

Can you tell us about your recent work with the Backstreet Boys?

I helped write a few songs for their new record when I was in London. I was actually surprised at how creative they were while we were working together.

Do you have a specific musical direction for your new album?

I don’t want to overthink it and make it a certain type of record. I love R&B and I love pop music, so it’s going to be along those lines, but at the same time I love garage and house, so there’ll be elements of that as well. I just want it to be consistent.

How’s your work going as a UN ambassador against tuberculosis?

I’m still involved in fighting tuberculosis. It’s something that I got involved with years ago. It’s one of those causes that can get overshadowed by other very important causes like HIV/AIDS, but tuberculosis is also a huge killer.

You’re renowned for your muscular physique these days. What’s your ‘Eat clean, train dirty’ motto all about?

When you look at someone’s physique, or the change in their physique, that shows you where their mindset is at. You can make excuses like working certain hours, or you can’t wake up early enough or you go to bed too late. But they’re just that: excuses. ‘Eat clean, train dirty’ is about going to the gym, doing your workout and getting out. I don’t want to be in there for hours. It’s about doing what you need to do and eating the correct food. It’s science and it’s very simple.

How would you say you’ve changed since you first hit the scene as a teenager in 1999?

I think I’m a lot more self-aware about what I’m doing. When you first start out you’re very passionate, studying every artist and trying to prove to the world that you can do this professionally. Once you find your lane, you start to have more confidence. I now know that if I just do me, I don’t worry about what’s being played on radio or who the hot artist is right now. I’m in a lane by myself, like Usher or Chris Brown.


What: Atelier Festival

Where: Meydan Racecourse, Dubai

When: Friday, October 19, from 2pm to 3am (open to all ages)

Cost: Dhs350 standard, Dhs700 VIP standing, Dhs1,250 Platinum Lounge

Tickets: On sale online at www.timeouttickets.com and www.marhabadeals.com, or in person from Virgin Megastores, Time Out Tickets, ENOC and EPPCO stations and Reel Cinemas

For more info: See www.theatelierworld.com or call 04 363 2821

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