That’s right, as further evidence that we will point back at the last week of April 2015 as the moment when mainstream country music made the critical turning point of becoming so devoid of anything that is actually country that there was no turning back, rapper Nelly has made it known he intends to release a country music EP called Heartland.
The news came out through an interview with Nelly’s manager J. Erving (the son of basketball great Julius Erving) published in Billboard recently.
“He’s a free agent on the label side now, and is working on a country-based ‘Heartland’ EP, which should be really interesting,” J. Erving explained. “He may be one of the first hip-hop artists to jump into that space in an authentic way with Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw, so we think he has an opportunity to grow that base even more.”
No word as of yet of a label mate for the EP, or a release date.
The news comes mere weeks after Nelly was making headlines in Tennessee for something entirely different. On April 11th, his tour bus was pulled over in Putnam County for not having proper tags, and a cornucopia of weapons and narcotics were unloaded off the bus in a police search. Five “rocks” of methamphetamine, a small amount of marijuana, 100 Ziploc baggies considered paraphernalia for the intent to distribute, as well as gold-plated .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, a .45-caliber Tarus pistol and a .500-magnum Smith and Wesson were all confiscated. One of the people in Nelly’s posse in possession of one of the guns and was also a convicted felon. Nelly himself was charged with felony possession of narcotics and booked into jail.
Despite J. Erving’s words, Nelly has never dabbled in country music, and to label his country dalliances as “authentic” is laughable. Nelly’s 2004 collaboration with Tim McGraw called “Over and Over” had nothing to do with country at all. It was Tim McGraw lending vocals to a hip-hop song, and wasn’t even made available anywhere in the country radio realm. Similarly, Nelly’s work with Florida Georgia Line on “Cruise” was for the pop remix of the song released to pop and urban radio outlets, and really didn’t have anything to do with the country version of a song that wasn’t really country in the first place.
Whether Heartland will offer anything country remains to be seen, but Nelly’s move into country is further evidence that country music is without leadership, without control or direction, and anyone can jump on board to exploit the leadership vacuum in the genre for financial gain. After what were some promising glimmers of hope in 2014 of country music emerging from the post Bro-Country era with a renewed understanding about sustainability and equality of music in regards to quality and gender, 2015 has been one piece of bad news after another.