It would be difficult for Nelly to duplicate the success he once enjoyed. When Jay-Z said, “Only dudes moving units: Em [Eminem], Pimp Juice [Nelly] and us,” there was speculation over how long the St. Louis, Missouri star’s party would last. While Eminem and Jay-Z have solidified their statuses, renegading the game’s charts for years with few missteps, Nelly has somewhat vanished from the mainstream conversation. Aside from rumored romances and early hits being played at sporting events, it has been tough to find Nelly as a relevant figure in the culture, even with mild success on Brass Knuckles. This makes 5.0 all the more vital, an album designed to be his comeback disc, one that reintroduces us to Pimp Juice. That may have been the intention, but, instead it really affirms that his seat at the table of Rap was taken during his hiatus.
No one was expecting a lyrical extravaganza, but how can one avoid the glaring pitfalls of Nelly’s pen? On “I’m Number 1” he horribly exclaims, “If my money’s stupid, my credit card’s a retard.” Lines don’t get any better when he later notes that someone needs to call a doctor. “My diagnosis? I got ‘Gettin’ Money’ syndrome.” While his flow remains catchy in the sing-song tone, he ventures into the graveyard to dig out Auto-Tune-assisted cuts. “Nothing Without Her” and “Gone” feature Nelly doing his best T-Pain, only to put out his worst Nelly. Mr. Country Grammar bounces back with “Just a Dream,” a track that brings him back to his romantic tactics, a favorable move for female fans not interested in good lyrics.
The beats only further sink this ship. Polow Da Don recycles a few tracks to make “Long Gone.” The Runners, who produced the Keri Hilson-assisted “Liv Tonight,” only place Nelly completely out of his element. Also, Don Vito and Blade put a Notorious B.I.G. sample on a track that doesn’t deserve the late great’s vocals (“1000 Stacks” featuring Diddy). Still, Nelly supporters will appreciate Jim Jonsin’s production, specifically on “Just a Dream,” a track that allows Nelly to get back to where he feels most comfortable.
With a chart-topping radio hit in “Just A Dream,” time will tell if Pimp Juice goes back to being a Midwest pillar in the Rap map. As for quality, Nelly’s rhyme game has not improved as his lyrical swords remain dull. It’s hard to expect much from a rapper who made one of his biggest hits around a nursery rhyme. Flow wise, he’s cheapened his game with the Auto-Tune help and his instrumental choices remain club driven, radio-friendly cuts. Much like Brass Knuckles before it, 5.0 might just be another forgettable release from the St. Lunatic.