If you were hoping Nellyville would be an insightful look at the life of a rapper who has been notoriously private until now, prepare to be disappointed. Aside from a few very raw scenes, this show is little more than fluff with some staged drama.
St. Louis rapper Nelly has joined Rev Run, Coolio and other fizzling pop stars who are trying to grab some last limelight through reality TV. After his latest album went largely unnoticed in 2013 (you know, that one you probably didn't hear about until you read that last sentence), he has turned to television. Nellyville is airing on BET in eight hour-long episodes.
The show opens with an introduction to Nelly's family. He has adopted the two children of his sister -- whose death from leukemia was highly publicized -- Lil Shawn and Sidney, and has two kids of his own: Chanelle (Nana) and Tre. Add to the mix Nelly's new girlfriend, Shantel Jackson (Floyd Mayweather's ex).
The first episode begins with Nana arriving home from college to spend a weekend with her family and Shantel. First things first: What the hell was that thing that sucked her suitcase downstairs? It was like the giant version of that tube/vacuum thingy that takes your check to the teller at bank drive throughs. We don't even get a hint of an explanation, so we're left to assume that the Jetsons used to own Nelly's mansion. After her luggage is magically whisked away (possibly to another realm), Nana is welcomed by her family and banter ensues. Tre wanders into the other room and presumably drinks chocolate milk for the next two episodes of filming.
Shantel Jackson has arrived in town for the weekend and spends most of the show failing to make a connection with Nelly's daughter, Nana. After being rebuffed with extreme prejudice when she offers to set Nana (whose boyfriend recently died) up on a date, she redirects by encouraging Nelly to have a discussion with Nana about her boyfriend's death, then makes sure to take credit after he talks to her. All of her interference and attempts at "girl talk" just leave her looking a little too desperate to join the family.
While the kids spend some time upstairs in a huge recording studio where Lil Shawn makes mixtapes and plays Xbox, Nana relates to her siblings that she's having some trouble dealing with the recent death of her boyfriend, Mario. While the circumstances are never really explained, we can extrapolate that Mario was shot outside some sort of a club where he and Nana were spending the evening. After encouragement from Shantel, Nelly tries to comfort his daughter for her loss on camera, but the moment falls flat after so much staging.
Downstairs, after Nelly recovers from the shock of hearing that people go bowling in LA, he rounds up the family and heads to Lindenwood University to award his Black and White Ball scholarship to this year's winners. (We'll skip the car conversation where Nelly brags about his twenty-year-old daughter being a virgin.) At the ceremony, Nelly visits with Mike Brown's parents, who he had invited, and offers condolences and any help he can give.
After so much tension, a cheesy family bowling game seems to ease everyone's mood.
Continue to page two for insight into the second episode of Nellyville.