"Hot in Herre" is easily the most ubiquitous single of 2002, and it's also arguably the best. Riding a liquid, deceptively simple Neptunes groove--the only remotely subtle thing about the song--Nelly's hymn to dancing as foreplay is studded with such shamelessly salacious lines ("I got a friend with a pole in the basement") that resistance is futile. I held out until I heard Belgian mashup bootleg masters 2 Many DJs glide into it from a Beastie Boys track; the packed dance floor I was on erupted, and I was the song's bitch from that point on. Nothing else on the Saint Louis rapper's second release, Nellyville (Universal), packs nearly that much heat--unlike 2000's terrific Country Grammar, the new disc is strictly a hits-plus-filler affair. Still, the follow-up singles--"Dilemma," featuring Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child, and the current hit "Air Force Ones"--sound pretty great on the radio. Between Nelly's two discs and Free City (Universal), the surprisingly solid album his posse, the St. Lunatics, put out last year, he'll have plenty of material to work with here. The show's opener, Musiq, may have the most pretentious moniker in showbiz--though it's an improvement on Musiq Soulchild, the name he went by on his 2000 debut, Aijuswanaseing--but the Philadelphia phenom's second disc, Juslisen (Universal/Def Jam), released this summer, is one of the year's best R & B albums. Whether celebrating the sexually charged early stages of a relationship on "Newness" or serenading a friend turned lover on the lightly jazzy "Halfcrazy," Musiq recalls Stevie Wonder at his most alert. And his cover of the Beatles' "Something" does justice to the original. Also on the bill: B2K, LL Cool J, and Syleena Johnson. Sunday, December 29, 6 PM, United Center, 1901 W. Madison; 312-455-4500 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jonathan Mannion.