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Nelly is getting there, but not up to cohorts’ levels

“5.0,” Nelly’s ironically titled sixth album, doesn’t have the horsepower of the Mustang 5.0 he drives in the “Just a Dream” video.

That single, however, drives a listener to give the rest of the album a shot. Nelly, best known for his 2002 pop culture-altering single “Hot in Herre” and other one-dimensional tracks, such as “Air Force Ones,” proves on “Just a Dream” he can generate sympathy. It would be easy to give Nelly credit just for displaying emotion, but this song is truly touching and merits mention alongside the best hip-hop singles of the year.

The rest of the album doesn’t earn the same level of credibility. Nelly hosts a number of guests on the new album, and his performance can often be judged in light of the company he keeps.

For example, on the track “Long Gone,” Nelly is paired with Chris Brown and the rapper Plies. “Long Gone” is not a particularly impressive track, but Brown is a lame duck in the song, and Plies sounds like a Lil’ Jon with only half the vocal damage. On the other hand, T.I. is the guest artist on “She’s So Fly” and during the course of his two verses makes Nelly look like a lyrical buffoon.

Kelly Rowland’s appearance on “Gone” attracted the most attention, mainly because of the popularity of Nelly’s 2002 single, “Dilemma,” which also featured Rowland. “Gone” is not a sequel, but as a follow-up, it disappoints on the “Temple of Doom” level.

Aside from “Just a Dream,” there are a few other songs that deserve mention, even if they fit into Nelly’s regular repertoire. “1000 Stacks” is a guaranteed club banger if it finds its way to being a single. “Liv Tonight” featuring Keri Hilson is a fun track as well.

Nelly isn’t pure hip-hop joy yet, but he’s certainly made strides. He’s almost made up for “Hot in Herre,” but not quite.

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