Nelly was born Cornell Haynes Jr. in St. Louis, where he encountered the street temptations so synonymous with rap artists. And like so many of his contemporaries, a change in circumstance at a pivotal time in his life may have changed the course of Nelly's life. In his case, when he was a teenager, Nelly was taken away from those streets when his mother moved to nearby suburban University City. It was there that he shifted his attention to playing baseball, storytelling, and writing rhymes. With some high school friends, Nelly formed a band, the St. Lunatics, who scored a regional hit in 1996 with a self-produced single, "Gimmie What You Got." Frustrated with failed attempts to land a record deal as a group, they collectively decided that Nelly would have a better chance as a single act, confident that his stage presence and rhyming skills would win through. The rest of the group could follow with solo albums of their own.
The gamble paid off, and soon Nelly caught the ... Read full biography