One of the more unique rap talents to emerge during the 2000s, Nelly (born Cornell Hayes, Jr.) owed much of his individuality to his geographic origins. Whereas other rappers could be tied to various schools (southern rap, east coast rap, etc.), Nelly hailed from St. Louis, MO, and thus produced a sound entirely his own; he fused urban rap with southern rap to create an unusual hybrid and sported a voice that blended a Midwestern twang with a distinctly Southern drawl. Nelly debuted with a hit single in the summer of 2000 ("Country Grammar (Hot)," then bucked widespread accusations of being a novelty act with a series of blockbuster follow-ups. Albums included the 2002 release Nellyville and the 2004 releases Suit and Sweat.
Meanwhile, Hayes projected some entrepreneurial spirit on the side by designing and launching his own line of men's apparel, Vorpal, and his own line of women's apparel, Applebottoms. Aside from an early appearance in the musically charged crime drama Snipes (2001), the majority of Nelly's film work showcased his rap in a nonfiction context, such as 2002 and 2004 appearances as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live, an interview appearance in the documentary Hip Hop 101: The Game (2003), and participation in the 2007 BET Hip Hop Awards. One exception arose in 2005, with a small supporting role in the Adam Sandler comedy remake The Longest Yard (2005).