Who is Nelly?
Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., more popularly known by Nelly, his stage name, is an American singer, rapper, songwriter, investor, occasional actor, and entrepreneur from St. Louis in Missouri. He started his music journey in 1993 with St. Lunatics, a hip-hop group from Midwest. In 1999, he went on to sign to Universal Records. Under Universal, he started his solo career in 2000 by coming out with Country Grammar, his debut album. The single “Ride With Me”, as well as the featured title track, went on to become top ten hits.
The Billboard 200 debuted his album at number three. Not only that, it went on to reach the number one position. To date, Country Grammar is the best-selling album of Nelly. It has sold more than 8.4 million copies within the United States alone. His next album, Nellyville, gave the world number-one hits “Dilemma” and “Hot in Herre”. These songs featured Kelly Rowland. His other singles include “#1”, “Pimp Juice”, “Air Force Ones”, featuring St. Lunatics and Murphy Lee, and “Work It”, featuring Justin Timberlake.
What’s with the Band-Aid?
If you have ever watched any music video of Nelly’s early hits, like “Pimp Juice” or “ Hot in Herre”, you would have seen him wearing a little bandage over his left cheek. Viewers have wondered why did he had to sport a bandaid out of all the things in the world. Well, there is a reason. As per stories and sources, the requirement of a band-aid arose after a basketball injury. However, the rapper kept on wearing it even after his injury healed. Many saw it as a mystery as any wound needing a band-aid would heal in a short period of time. He continued to wear it to honour his music collaborator and dear friend, Lavell Webb, better known as City Spud.
In the early days of Nelly’s career, City Spud spent was jailed for armed robbery. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. After serving nine years in prison, Spud was released, and only then did Nelly took off his band-aid. City Spud, a former St. Lunatic, collaborated with Nelly for ‘Ride Wit Me’, which turned out to be a hit song. Nelly believed that Spud, even though in prison at that time, was innocent. He went on to say, “I know when he sees me on TV and sees me wearing this Band-Aid, he knows I’m wearing it for him”.
What does it Signify?
If you look at the band-aid from a more anthropological point of view, you would understand that Nelly is creating a physical scar to represent an emotional scar. Although the band-aid has nothing below it, the significance lies in what it indicates. Think about it at a deeper level, and you will get the conclusion. It took many years of speculations of many people to figure out what sort of scar could be hiding below the band-aid. It was one of Nelly’s best friends who was incarcerated, and it was nine years later when Nelly finally took off the band-aid on Spud’s release ever since, many people have started doing the same thing for their friends and family in prison.
Some also go for tattoos to honouring the ones who have been incarcerated. The scar always remains in one’s psyche. Merleau-Ponty, in the Phenomenology of Perception, states that “To be a body, is to be tied to a certain world, as we have seen; our body is not primarily in space: it is of it.” Our physical body is merely a tether for our souls. We can contextualize Nelly’s practice as an attempt of mirroring the emotions of one’s soul into its physical manifestation. In this process, he just proactively interacted with space which Merleau-Ponty says his body is made of.
Nelly’s Campaign for Leukemia
4Sho4Kids Foundation, a non-profit organization, is run by Nelly. In March 2003, he and his sister Jackie Donahue started the Jes Us 4 Jackie campaign when Jackie got diagnosed with leukemia. Their campaign works at educating African Americans as well as other minority groups about the need for more donor registrations and bone marrow transplants. On March 24, 2005, Jackie died of the disease, around two years after their campaign started. (See 15 Best Rappers Of 2020)
His Other Philanthropic Ventures
In 2006, Nelly began to host a ‘White and Black Ball’ in St. Louis, his hometown. It was a fundraiser for collecting funds for educational scholarships. For more than a decade, Nelly has got two students into college every year. He even went on setting up a scholarship fund which was named after Michael Brown. Michael Brown Jr. was an 18 years old black man who was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer in Missouri’s city of Ferguson, a suburb in St. Louis.
Nelly’s fund was not only a sentimental act of honouring the deceased college student. It was also a part of the strategic plan of helping bring about a change in the Ferguson community in a way that he thought was the most effective. In 2010, Nelly also endorsed the Tackle Hunger campaign by Do Something. He filmed a public service announcement for a cause where he challenged teens for fighting hunger by collecting a million pounds of food in their holiday season.