Nelly, born Cornell Haynes, Jr., formed the group St. Lunatics with area friends in 1993 after moving to Universal City, California, from St. Louis, Missouri. Although the group produced a successful single, "Gimme What You Got," they were unsuccessful in getting signed to a record deal. Eventually, the group members felt that Nelly would have more success as a solo act and after gaining recognition could bring in the rest of the group.
After being signed to Universal Music group in 2000, Nelly released his first album, Country Grammar. Its title single helped boost the album to number three on the Billboard 200. Other singles on the album included "E.I.," "Ride Wit Me," and "Batter Up." In addition to the album, Nelly also recorded the singles "Free City" and "Midwest Swing," which were released in 2001.
In June 2002, Nelly's second album, Nellyville, was released and topped the Billboard 200. The album spun off four singles, including the number-one hit "Hot in Herre." Other singles included "Dilemma," featuring Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, "Work It," featuring Justin Timberlake, and "Pimp Juice." For his work on the album, Nelly received the 2003 Grammy for Best Male Rap Solo Performance. He also shared with Kelly Rowland the award for Best Rap/Sung Collection.
In September 2004, Nelly released two albums simultaneously, Sweat and Suit, which were rap and R&B themed respectively. Suit topped the Billboard chart upon its debut, and Sweat debuted in second place. For the Suit album single "Over and Over," Nelly teamed up with country singer Tim McGraw. The song was a hit, reaching number three in the United States and number one in the UK and Australia.
Nelly's most recent album is Brass Knuckles, which was released in September 2008. Nelly released a single, "Cut It Out," in June 2008. After Brass Knuckles, Nelly will work with fellow rapper T.I. on a collaborative album. In addition to his music career, he acted in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard.