Nelly Talks Tour Life, Keeping Music 'Fresh' & What Makes His Girlfriend Stand Out From the Rest (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy
(Note: This interview was conducted on Sept. 7, 2017, prior to allegations that Nelly sexually assaulted a woman on his tour bus in Des Moines, Washington. He was arrested and released without charges filed. His lawyer tells ET that the allegations are "completely fabricated." Nelly has also spoken out on social media, claiming he's innocent. More on that story HERE.)
Nelly is opening up about his 17 years in the spotlight.
The 42-year-old rapper has been touring the country with Florida Georgia Line for their 2017 Smooth Tour, recently making a stop in Anaheim, California. To promote her new E! series, The Platinum Life, Nelly's girlfriend, Shantel Jackson, invited ET to experience the "VIP lifestyle" with her and her pals at his concert at the Anaheim Convention Center.
After spending the evening watching Nelly belt out hits like "Just a Dream," "Hot in Herre" and "Country Grammar," and chatting with Jackson over drinks and food backstage, we were escorted outside to meet the St. Louis, Missouri, native and interview him on his tour bus.
When we arrived, Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, opener Chris Lane and friends of all the artists were hanging out, chatting, playing cornhole and celebrating another successful show.
"We cool, you can see from back here. This is almost every night!" Nelly said of life on the road with FGL and Lane. "We got a set up, we like to entertain. We got a lot of people that come up every single show and show us love."
"We have a lot of fun… it's like a tailgate atmosphere," he added. "It's straight tailgating as far as the camaraderie, the vibe, always having fun. We're enjoying the simplicities, but also enjoying the music on a different level."
Nelly has spent nearly two decades of his life making music, and while most of his fans share a love of hip-hop, he's thrilled country fans are just as ecstatic to watch him perform.
"The crowds are great," he shared. "In the sense of combining the cultures, different music… it's not much different from my other tours when it comes to intensity of the crowd."
So, after all these years, performing all over the world, how does Nelly keep it fun and fresh for the fans? It's simple, he says.
"I think by just enjoying what you do," he said. "I just go out there, do what I do, and I appreciate the fans still coming to see me. And when you look at it that way, it's like, 'Yo, I'm going to give you everything I've got, right here.' When you understand that, you appreciate it."
And being able to do what he loves each and every day is even more special now that he's got a supportive girlfriend by his side. When we started talking with Nelly about his relationship with Jackson, he couldn't help himself from flashing a smile.
"Word," he said, laughing when we asked him about his thoughts on the "power couple" label fans have given them. "I don't know about all that, but we appreciate the love. It's all good."
"But no, it's dope, you know? To have anybody, in whatever it is that you're doing," he continued. "To have the person that you love, the person that you f**k with, come out and support you, that's all you want. That's all that anybody's looking for."
The support, he says, is mutual. Jackson is gearing up for her shining moment on The Platinum Life, a reality series that will give fans an inside look at the life of the "queens of the hip-hop scene." The show also features women like Asiah Collins, wife of Kid Ink, and Nazanin Mandi, Miguel's fiancée.
"First off, I'm supportive," Nelly replied, when ET asked if he had any hesitations about Jackson doing the show. "If this is what you wanna do, I'mma support you. Now, if you ask me my opinion on it, I'mma give it you, but it's still ultimately your choice, regardless. And whichever one you choose, I'm going to be there for you. And that's just -- it is what it is. I trust her enough that she's going to make decisions that she feels are not only best for her, but that's not going to jeopardize anything we're doing. You gotta put that trust in somebody, and this is something she really wanted to do, so I'm with her."
"I can't speak for what anybody else is doing, but for me, I think it's more about them, the girls, and what they're doing. It's not about us," he said of how he and the other rappers will be featured on the show. "We are who we are, and everybody can see what we're doing."
"The guys, we don't need a show -- it's not a show for us, 'cause we doing what we do," he continued. "It's about them. Dealing with us to a certain degree, but also having their own lives, their own agendas, own entrepreneurship dreams, things like that, and how sometimes we have to pull back and support them."
Nelly and Jackson, 33, first met through a mutual friend, and have been dating for three and a half years. He said he thinks the two work together so well because of the fact that they "really had a chance to be friends first."
"Being friends first, I think, is something important. Then, I feel like you come into a situation that's genuine," said Nelly, who has two children, Chanelle, 23, and Cornell, 18, from previous relationships. "I think some of my past relationships, I don't think everybody came into them genuinely. And when you don't come into them genuinely, sometimes it festers and sometimes you end relationships for the wrong reasons. But when you come in it genuinely, and you enjoy just being around that person, that's important."
"We all live and we learn," he added. "I wouldn't trade anything that I've been through for anything in the world because it got me to where I'm at."
The Platinum Life premieres Sunday, Oct. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on E!