Nelly – Brass Knuckles [Review]

Nelly - Brass Knuckles

Sorry for the delay on the Nelly album review, but it’s finally here. Before the festivities begin for my 21st b-day today, I’m gonna see what Nelly has to offer with his latest release. It’s been four years since Nelly’s last album release Sweatsuit, which received good reviews and put some nice numbers in terms of sales. A lot of people are wondering if Nelly still has what it takes to deliver a quality album with classic songs as he was done so many times in the past. Does Brass Knuckles deliver that knockout punch or does it just come up lame, let’s take a listen…

U Ain’t Him
Featuring Rick Ross; Produced by Adam “Wyshmaster” Cherrington
If it was Nelly’s plan to start this album off the right way with a banger, then he did just that with this track. The beat provided by Adam “Wyshmaster” Cherrington is definitely knockin’ and has that impact feel to it that’s just right for an album’s opening track. Nelly’s opening verse is dead on and shows that he hasn’t lost a step since his last album release. Rick Ross spits a nice verse for his guest appearance, but I find it a little funny that he’s featured on this track talking about people who try to be something they’re not and his whole fiasco regarding his past as a correctional officer. Besides that fact this is a good track and it sets the pace for the rest of the album to come. I could see this track being a single off the album and having a nice video to accompany it.

Hold Up
Featuring T.I. & LL Cool J; Produced by Free Agents
Nelly keeps the energy and power going from the first track to this one, which features ATL legend T.I. and Hip-Hop icon LL Cool J trading verses over a fever pitched beat produced by the Free Agents. Nelly does his thing on the first verse and LL Cool J spit some decent bars on the third verse, but I think T.I. steals the show with his verse. This beat/song seems to fit T.I. more than it does Nelly, but regardless of that it still works nicely and I could see this song being more of a single than the first track. That Paper Trail album is looking to be a nice one (at least better than T.I. vs. T.I.P.) and LL’s album Exit 13 was a bit average but still good nonetheless.

Featuring Snoop Dogg & Nate Dogg; Produced by Ron “Neff-U” Feemster
On this West Coast style track Nelly keeps his flow simplistic and his lyrics come off somewhat basic. I think Nelly could have come better than what he did with the rhymes, but I guess he was trying to keep it flowing with the smoothly laced beat by Ron “Neff-U” Feemster (he certainly got the rhyme scheme down with the “L.A.” ending on every line). Nate Dogg gives this song that classic West Coast vibe with his crooning towards the end of the track (big support to the big homie Nate Dogg after hearing he suffered his 2nd stroke) and Snoop Dogg is a nice addition to the song’s chorus, but he should have definitely had a verse on this track. Snoop would have definitely been more fitting over the beat than Nelly and would have made the track more appealing. That was the biggest flaw that I noticed with this track, but it was still a nice track.

Long Night
Featuring Usher; Produced by James “JLack” Lackey
After two fast paced songs and one laid back track to start off the album, Nelly decides to slow things down with this late night vibe track featuring recent Platinum plaque R&B superstar Usher on the hook. This song features Nelly kicking those typical rhymes about him and the honey of his choosing (presumably Ashanti) hooking up for a late night session. Nelly does a nice job with the rhymes as they fit the topic and Usher provides a fitting chorus for the song. This song does its job and keeps the album flowing along nicely.

Featuring St. Lunatics & Keri Hilson; Produced by Polow Da Don
Nelly keeps that slow vibe going with this next track that is produced by Polow Da Don who supplies the production on four tracks on this album. This song which talks about females in their lying and deceitful ways is tackled by Nelly and his hometown crew the St. Lunatics. The lyrics by the artists on this track are average at best and aren’t anything spectacular. The chorus receives a nice addition of Keri Hilson (#1 on my Hot List) and she fits well with the song.

Party People
Featuring Fergie; Produced by Polow Da Don
This track, I am sure everybody has heard since its release back in April and in being featured on Fergie’s deluxe edition of The Dutchess. This song was the lead single for this album and it was a good selection to be the lead single. The beat produced by Polow Da Don was a sure fire hit and had the clubs jumpin’ when it came on. Nelly spits some great rhymes on this track especially the double time rhyming that he did on his second verse. Fergie’s addition to this track just makes it complete as she brings that same vibe and energy that she displayed on her hit “London Bridge”.

Featuring Chuck D; Produced by G. Koop
On this track Nelly decides to hit us with a song of a more positive, uplifting style as he incorporates Hip-Hop great Chuck D of the legendary group Public Enemy. I like the lyrics that Nelly provides on this track as they really make sense and touch on a lot of topics/issues going on in the world today. The chorus is also a nice touch to the song as he states, “I think I…naw I know I can”. Chuck D delivers his rhymes in only the powerful way that he can and his words of wisdom at the end of the track are a good addition.

Body On Me
Featuring Akon & Ashanti; Produced by Akon & Giorgio Tuinfort
This track was the next single released for the album that features both Akon and Ashanti. This track has a single feel to it and I can see why it was selected, but I think it’s just an average track at best. Nelly delivers rhymes that are fitting to the topic and Akon comes through on the chorus. Ashanti is featured on this track, but you don’t really hear much from her as much as you do Akon. The beat provided by the duo of Akon and Giorgio Tuinfort is a nice production, but as I said before this track is just average at its best.

Steppin’ On My J’z
Featuring Ciara & Jermaine Dupri; Produced by Jermaine Dupri
I remember when I first heard this song as it was performed live at the 2008 BET Awards. As I was watching the performance I immediately thought that the song would be one of the single for Nelly’s upcoming album and sure enough it was as the third single. The beat produced by Jermaine Dupri is somewhat basic as it sounds sort of like “Grillz”, which JD produced on Nelly’s previous album Sweatsuit. That’s not a good thing that it sounds similar to that song and it seems as though Nelly is shooting to get the same response that he got from “Air Force Ones”. I don’t think this song is gonna garner near the same response or support as that song did, plus I doubt that MJ is sponsoring this at all (good effort though Nelly). Ciara really doesn’t fit on this song and her addition sounds a bit out of place. This song is average to me and doesn’t really catch my attention much as a single. Besides, I don’t even rock J’z anymore (the last pair I purchased were the original black Jordan XIV, the ones that he took the “final shot” in to beat the Utah Jazz in ’98…classics!).

Let It Go (Lil’ Mama)
Featuring Pharrell Williams; Produced by The Neptunes
This track features that trademark sound produced by The Neptunes as you can recognize it as soon as you hear it with the synthesizers and congo drums in the background. This is track comes of as sort of boring and bland as the production can start to drag on after listening for a while and Nelly’s lyrics are too simplistic. This song would be more fitting on a Neptunes’ album with Pharrell spittin’ rhymes and Nelly as the featured guest cause it doesn’t quite work the other way around.

One And Only
Produced by Polow Da Don
On this track, which is produced by Polow Da Don, we hear Nelly ditching the rhymes and choosing to bless us with his vocals instead. The only question that I have to ask is “Why?”…I mean really what would make Nelly think he needed to skip rapping on this track and decide to sing (as we only hear rapping towards the end of the song). Nelly does not do a good job with the singing on this track and this should be the last time that he decides to sing on any track. Leave that for the R&B artists that actually know how to sing and stick to the ‘one and only’ thing you should be doing….RAPPING (you’re a rapper!!!!). This song is a definite skip for me and this will probably be the only time that I listen to this track.

Featuring St. Lunatics; Produced by Adam “Wyshmaster” Cherrington
Nelly decides to bring the tempo of the album back up with this track that has a nice beat produced by Adam “Wyshmaster” Cherrington. This is Nelly’s posse cut as he spits rhymes with his crew the St. Lunatics and they fit well with the beat provided. While again they don’t spit anything amazing or quotable, they manage to deliver a nice track even though the track does start to drag in being the longest track on the album.

Who Fucks Wit Me
Featuring Avery Storm; Produced by Boom-Batt Productions
This track sees Nelly teaming up again with Avery Storm from their nice collaboration on Rick Ross’ single “Here I Am”. The production on this track by Boom-Batt Productions is nice as it features an acoustic guitar, which sets the mood for the song. Nelly spits some nice rhymes on this track talking about how nobody is on his level when it comes to what he does, and I’m glad to hear Avery Storm doing the singing on this track opposed to Nelly as we heard on the previous track.

Ucud Gedit
Featuring Gucci Mane & R. Kelly; Produced by Polow Da Don
This track really sounds like it should have been a bonus track if anything on this album. The album would have ended nicely with 13 tracks cause this track is really just average. Polow Da Don supplies a nice beat for the track, but as far as the lyrics from the artists that’s another story. Nelly spits some decent rhymes and R. Kelly is in his typical form in sounding how he has lately on featured tracks. But Gucci Mane on the chorus is something that I just can’t bare to listen to. I really don’t understand how he appeals to people when his lyrics are awful and you can barely understand what he’s even saying. This track would have to be a skip for me and this wasn’t the best way to close the album.

Bottom Line:
Overall, I think that this is a good offering from Nelly in his fifth album. With it being four years since his last album release in Sweatsuit, I think this album showed that Nelly hasn’t lost his touch and he can still deliver when it’s time to. This album had a mix of good songs (“Hold On”, “U Ain’t Him”, “Self-Esteem”), average songs (“L.A.”, “Long Night”, “Lie”), and horrible songs (“U Can Get It”, “One And Only”), but the one thing that it was missing was any classic songs. Nelly has been known to deliver memorable songs as hear on his previous albums like “Country Grammar (Hot Shit)”, “Hot In Herre”, and “Grillz”, but there were absolutely no songs of that caliber on this album and that’s a very important aspect especially in terms of Nelly and his track record. That aspect would have made this album that much better, but the result of no songs like that leaves this album lacking. Nelly will see some decent numbers in terms of sales for this album, but they won’t be close to topping any of his previous albums. Unless you’re a die hard Nelly fan, you’d probably be better purchasing individual tracks on iTunes. (Now on to the big party for my big 2-1…gotta get my grown man on now, time to retire the XXL t-shirts and baggy jeans)

nappyPicks: “Hold Up”, “Self-Esteem”, “U Ain’t Him”, “L.A.”, “Long Night”, & “Lie”

Download: Nelly feat. LL Cool J & T.I. – “Hold Up”