Brass Knuckles is Nelly's Thriller.

No kidding.

It's not perfect, but neither was MJ's magnum opus; it jumped styles and wasn't particularly cohesive. Likewise, Knuckles skips haphazardly from Dirty South jams to G-funk throwbacks to would-be empowerment anthems. It's more of a collection of singles than an actual album—but what singles! There's not really a clunker here (as long as you can stomach Fergie), and every track feels inspired.

The recent slag on Nelly is that he recalls an earlier—and more embarrassing—era of rap. But barely anything here resembles the slurring Nelly of old. Brass Knuckles finds Nelly, after having been deemed irrelevant, coming back hungry, using every name in his Rolodex and teaching himself some new tricks.

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Ben Westhoff
Contact: Ben Westhoff