Brass Knuckles

Brass Knuckles

Like many hip-hop artists who owe their success to crossover club hits and are now fighting against the tide of irrelevance, Nelly spends a noticeable portion of Brass Knuckles overselling his masculinity. Once an artist who knew how to have fun on swift-moving club tracks like “Hot In Herre” and “Country Grammar,” Nelly comes off like a steroidal maniac on “U Ain’t Him,” “Hold Up,” and “Warrior,” songs that are as overbearing and over-sculpted as the torso that appears on the album’s front cover. The songs that fare best here are the ones where Nelly admits that club music is what works for him. “Long Night” and “Body On Me” prove that Nelly is still the perfect foil for smooth R&B singers like Usher and Akon. And while some beats here suffer from a lack of imagination, the Neptunes deliver Nelly some of their signature thump on “Let It Go,” a song that reminds us that no matter what you think of Nelly as a rapper, he always finds the perfect infectious hook.

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