Over the last year Nelly has become less of a man to me and more of a symbol; living, breathing, sleeveless proof of just how unforgiving music culture can be in moving on. There was a time not too long ago, let's say 2004, when Nelly was unquestionably one of the most popular rappers on the planet. The kind of rapper so huge he could release two separate albums simultaneously, Sweat and Suit, and have them debut number two and number one in the country respectively.
And then it just stopped. By 2013 his album M.O. was barely able to crack the Top 20 and when we recently asked young people if they knew who Nelly was, the number one response was, "Oh yeah, that guy with the Band-Aid on his face." But while demand for new music from the man who put St. Louis on the map may be low, his previous hits have now hit that perfect point of nostalgia that makes them perfect for things like, say, a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita commercial.
"Hot in Herre" (don't forget the double "r") appearing in a Bud Light commercial alone isn't particularly fascinating, although Nelly's certainly getting a nice publishing check from a big national ad campaign. And now that I look at it, that song's been a publishing monster for him. It's appeared in a Super Bowl commercial for Pepsi, a Snapple commercial, a bunch of movies and TV shows, and much more. Goddamn. Nelly - and The Neptunes, and Chuck Berry - have probably made more money off that one song than the average American makes in a lifetime.
Freddie Gibbs, Saweetie & Earl Sweatshirt: Best of the Week
Freddie Gibbs, Saweetie, and Earl Sweatshirt, among others, had the best new songs on Audiomack this week.
Anyway....ten years ago people would have heard a favorite song in a commercial, reminisce, maybe try to pull out an old, dusty copy, and that'd be that. But in the age of streaming, people are able to instantly take to the interwebs and start taking off all their clothes listening to the song again. According to Billboard, after the Lime-A-Rita commercial began airing, streams and downloads of the song have skyrocketed; in June it was downloaded 16,000 times and streamed over 3 million times.
The resurrection of "Hot in Herre" comes at the same time that the Pokemon theme songs is climbing the charts after the release of Pokemon Go, and shortly after the Ghost Town DJs "My Boo" hit its highest position on the charts ever, 20 years after it was released thanks to the Running Man Challenge meme. For as much as streaming and the internet has taken away from artist's pockets, it's also opened up formerly impossible scenarios, where songs can compete with any new song even a decade, or more, after its original release thanks to a beer commercial or a ridiculous meme.
Nelly may still be "that guy with the Band-Aid" to teenagers, but you can't call his music irrelevant, not when he's making more money, and getting more listens, to his songs than 99% of new rappers. No matter what field we're in, may we all hope to one day be our own version of Nelly.
By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.
Photo Credit: Dan Garcia