Sweat/Suit (Universal)

Nelly 

Sweat/Suit (Universal)

You already know the hype: two albums, Use Your Illusion style. One for the clubs and one for the ladies. Sweat is an apt title for an album dripping with desperation. Clearly, Nelly and his producers have exhausted their arsenal of surefire dance-floor packers -- nothing on Sweat approaches the greatness of Nelly's first two releases, on which the St. Louis rapper's best tunes had an effortless feel. Instead, Sweat begs for approval. In lieu of a classic like "Air Force Ones," we get "American Dream," which earns the distinction of being the first rap song about deodorant. The hopeless "Flap Your Wings" is every bit as bad as its title suggests. "Getcha Getcha" features the St. Lunatics, who offer a welcome contrast to Nelly's one-trick monoflow, but the song regurgitates one of Nelly's well-known hooks (And the band played on) and suffers from a lack of inspiration. When you resort to sampling your own samples, you've definitely run out of ideas.

As with most musically ambitious projects, both of Nelly's tomes need sharper editing. But there's a decent album in here somewhere, and it's called Suit. It benefits from honesty -- Nelly is a rich, beloved hometown hero completely free of angst. And with its odes to romance and living the good life, Suit breezes by without a care in the world. The album launches with "Set It Off," a lolling ditty aided by the still-formidable production flourishes of Pharrell Williams. "She Don't Know My Name" pairs Ron Isley and Snoop Dogg for a soulful dose of pimp juice, and Nelly even teams with Wonder Bread crooner Tim McGraw (in surprisingly soulful form here) for a winning slice of country grammar. Suit wears well because it's good-time music, exactly what Nelly does best.

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