The St. Louis-born rap star--his second album, Nellyville, is at
No. 3 and has sold more than 2.3 million copies this year--went
into music after a promising high school baseball career that
earned him tryouts with the Braves and the Pirates.
SI: During the 2000 baseball playoffs the Cardinals played your
hit Country Grammar in the clubhouse after wins. How does that
Nelly: Beautiful, man. It's the illest. To have athletes support
what you're doing, feel a part of your music like that, it's like
you were a part of the celebration.
SI: You played shortstop at University City High in St. Louis.
Is that how you became an Ozzie Smith fan?
Nelly: Oooh, love Ozzie Smith. You can't be a Cardinals fan and
not love Ozzie, Terry Pendleton, Tommy Herr, Jose Oquendo. Then
you get down to Jack Clark, Keith Hernandez....
SI: Why did you give up baseball?
Nelly: Baseball to me was a slow, grinding process, and I wanted
the fast money and all that. So I kind of got out of the baseball
thing and went back to the 'hood. It was like, To hell with
baseball, I need to make some money!
SI: If you wanted money, maybe you should have stayed with
baseball. Who makes more, you or A-Rod?
Nelly: Oh, A-Rod, of course--252? What? I'm definitely in the
wrong business. But A-Rod is a freak of nature. I think me and
Ozzie have more in common. I'd probably have a good .302, .305
batting average, maybe .270 on my down low. Just try to put
together a string of Gold Gloves, that would be my thing right
SI: How would you welcome Scott Rolen to St. Louis?
Nelly: I'm 'a invite him out to the house, see if he wants to
have a drink or whatever the case, just chill out. Maybe head
over to Portabella's, get something to eat, call up the rest of
the guys, see what Faulk and them is doing, say, "Yo, what's
SI: What's the best sports rap line you've dropped?
Nelly: People liked, "Just kidding like Jason," and "I'm like
Randy Moss, I play when I wanna."
SI: Is there any athlete you'd want to collaborate with?
Nelly: On my album? An athlete? Naaah. It's all good, but I
prefer to watch 'em.
--Daniel G. Habib
COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS DELMAS/ZUMA PRESS (NELLY) "Oooh, love Ozzie Smith"