Nelly Claims 1999 to 2010 Was ‘Toughest Era in Hip-Hop Ever’

The St. Louis native said he had to compete with Hov, Slim Shady, Weezy, Luda, and 50 for the top spot.

Music artist in a blue jacket and sunglasses smiles at an event
(Photo by Prince Williams / WireImage)
Music artist in a blue jacket and sunglasses smiles at an event

Nelly has claimed hip-hop in the 2000s was the most challenging era to succeed in. 

During his visit to The Shop, the St. Louis native reflected on how the Grammys needed to do right by artists and how tough it was to get recognized around the time he emerged in 2000. Nelly came onto the scene like a bat out of hell with his debut album Country Grammar, which spawned three top 20 Billboard Hot 100 singles, and he had a strong argument for best new artist. 

However, as Nelly explained on The Shop, he wasn't even nominated in that category at the Grammys, which Alicia Keys won. Pair that with Nelly competing with rap titans such as Jay-ZEminemDMX, and more in the hip-hop space, and you have the context behind his statement.

"You gotta understand, my era of music was the toughest era in hip-hop ever. Ever!" said Nelly. "When I put out songs, I had to go against DMX, JAY-Z, Eminem, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Luda – all of us are fighting for one spot. So from 99 to like 2008, 10? It's the hardest era ever."

Nelly's claim that the 2000s era of hip-hop was the toughest isn't too far-fetched. Hip-hop went through a significant evolution in the early 2000s that saw the genre expand past the confines of the East and West Coasts and into other regions such as the Midwest and the South.

With that came a whole new batch of competition amongst rappers aiming for the top spot. Jay-Z and DMX kept their success going from the '90s well into the 2000s and future rap G.O.A.T.S. like Eminem, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, and Kanye West were making their voices heard with incredible rookie showings.

Amongst those was Nelly, who sold so well at that time the Recording Industry Association of America ranked him the fourth-best-selling hip-hop artist in American music history in 2014 behind Hov, Em, and 2Pac.   

Hip-hop also underwent a sonic transformation in the 2000s that revolutionized the culture and made it one of the leading musical genres in the world today.  

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