Two years after Brass Knuckles, Nelly returns to affirm his relevancy with 5.0. Hip-hop has undergone several trend waves since Nelly’s landmark Country Grammar, but his new album proves that the rapper still possesses one of the most distinctive flows in mainstream music. Nelly’s singsong cadences give swing to heavy Southern rap tunes (“I’m Number 1,” “Broke”) and provide the icing on arena-ready pop numbers (“Long Gone,” “Just a Dream,” “Don’t It Feel Good”). The rapper’s knack for complementing a well-concocted R&B song is proved on “K.I.S.S.” and “Gone” (the latter is performed with Kelly Rowland). Even though it is an almost note-perfect recreation of Nelly and Rowland’s classic 2003 hit “Dilemma,” the song succeeds on familiar ground. The secret to hip-hop longevity is adaptability, and 5.0 shows that Nelly is comfortable in more settings than the average rapper. In addition, he has the support of famous friends from all corners of the music industry. His ability to draw good work from his peers — witness T.I.’s amazing fast-rap turn on “She’s So Fly”— speaks to his enduring charisma and authority as a rap power-player.

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