It was hard to have any real expectations for Nelly’s new BET reality series, aptly entitled Nellyville. Nelly has never been one to volunteer private details of his life to the public—just ask Ashanti. And since it’s no longer 2003 and this is a family-focused show, one couldn’t have anticipated to see ass cheeks and sliding credit cards either.
There are other rappers who have featured their families on camera— T.I., Jim Jones, and Snoop Dogg to name a few—but their shows are far more lighthearted. Nellyville does have some humor, given Nelly has proven to himself to be quite the funny guy on Real Husbands of Hollywood. However, this show also deals with darker topics, and frankly, in a more mature way than other BET celebrity family reality shows like those starring Keyshia Cole.
This time around, Nelly is a single dad taking care of four kids: two from previous relationships and the other two, his niece and nephew, whom he took in after the death of his sister.
His biological children are Chanelle aka “Nana,” Cornell aka “Tre,” his nephew, Shawn aka “Lil’ Shawn” aka “Tab,” and Sydney aka “Stink.” Yes, they list each of their nicknames. You know we Black people love our nicknames. Chanelle is in college. Tre is in high school, playing football. Lil’ Shawn is an aspiring rapper. Sydney longs for a modeling career.
The first episode serves as an introduction for Nelly’s bunch, though a lot of the premiere specifically centers on Chanelle, who is visiting from college. Chanelle’s got a clever, slick mouth, and is maybe a little comfortable with internalizing whatever is bothering her.
Chanelle is also a virgin, which makes her daddy very proud. Yes, Nelly acknowledges that there is a bit of contradiction between him being elated that his daughter is abstaining from sex given his professional life has seen him celebrate it so much. Nonetheless, Nelly says he’s thrilled that Chanelle hasn’t succumb to the “pressure.” Of what? To have sex. What pressure? I assume the hypersexualized culture to which Nelly has helped perpetuate.
Many of us are walking contradictions, though at least Nelly is honest about the location of his. Even so, Nellyville shows that the Nelly who used to generate contentious headlines is gone. In the episode, we see Nelly the family man, but we also see Nelly speaking at a scholarship presentation. One recipient is from the Ferguson area, and while speaking to attendees, and Nelly revealed that he once lived in the area when Chanelle was a young child.
It’s clear that Chanelle is a “daddy’s girl,” but there is some underlying tension. For starters, Chanelle initially felt that it wasn’t time for Nelly’s girlfriend, Shantel aka “Miss Jackson,” to visit while she’s in town. Chanelle is still trying to get used to Shantel, she explains.
However, it is Shantel who ends up helping Chanelle…and Nelly. Chanelle is still reeling from the loss of her boyfriend, Mario, who was shot to death. “It’s hard for me because I’m not really the emotional type,” Nelly explains. Ultimately, he did speak to his daughter about her sadness, and yes, it brought Nelly’s girlfriend—who yes, used to date Floyd Mayweather— close together.
Death is a heavy subject to take on in a series premiere, and judging from the season preview, there are a lot of heavy topics Nellyville will appear to cover. But, it’s not riddled with sadness, but a mix of joy and realism. This is a show about a single dad raising a blended family and tackling issues many of us deal with on a day to day basis— a very normal and familiar story that just so happens to be spearheaded by someone famous.
Nellyville premieres Tuesday, November 25th at 10:30pm on BET.