On Friday, rapper Nelly did something he’s been hoping to do for about 16 or 17 years: He released a country-flavored album.
That’s his new project Heartland, a collaborations-packed collection of songs that the singer says he’s been wanting to make ever since he first dabbled in the country genre, releasing his 2004 duet with Tim McGraw.
“The idea of the project has been ever since ‘Over and Over’ — so since 2004, 2005, after seeing that success,” Nelly tells Billboard. “But the only reason I even thought that I could have success with ‘Over and Over’ was because, even when we dropped Country Grammar, we were getting so much love from this community.”
Released in 2000, Country Grammar is Nelly’s full-length studio debut. Though it was a hip hop album, the singer realized from the very start that his music was resonating with a country fan base, too.
But it took him a while to get around to formally venturing into country music, in part because he was “doing my homework,” Nelly explains. “To get more familiar with Nashville and everything. It became a lot easier to know how to navigate and create this project, to bring it to fruition.”
Heartland features duets with the likes of Kane Brown, Florida Georgia Line, Darius Rucker and Jimmie Allen. It’s leading single is Nelly’s FGL duet, “Lil Bit.”