*This post originally appeared on SouthFlorida.com*
The rapper who made putting Band-Aids on cheeks cool in the early 2000s is back at it again with another innovation. Hip-hop and classical music will converge on one stage when Nelly presents “A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop” at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, Jan. 26. The singer, songwriter and two-time Grammy Award winner will perform hits such as “Hot In Herre” and “Country Grammar” alongside a 30-piece orchestra.
“I thought it would be a great way to cross-mixture fans,” the 42-year-old says between reps at the gym during a phone interview. “Maybe help bring some fans to the symphony and help spread some symphony fans to hip-hop.”
Nelly says he wasn’t keen on the symphony idea at first. But after thinking about it for a few months, he said, “What the hell? Let’s give it a shot.”
When he performs at the Broward Center, he’ll be accompanied by the Fort Lauderdale-based Symphony of the Americas.
“We perform with a local orchestra in that area to help bring notoriety not just to myself but to the area’s orchestra,” Nelly says. “A lot of these city orchestras are phenomenal. Hopefully, we can start generating more fans to come and see them.”
Those at Symphony of the Americas share similar sentiments.
“The musicians are certainly excited,” says Renee LaBonte, executive director of the Symphony of the Americas. “It’s something different that we haven’t done before and allows us to have exposure to a different audience who may not know about us, and also allows some of our subscribers and supporters to come and hear the orchestra in a totally different idea and venue and style of music.”
Each member of the orchestra learns his or her part for the show individually. LaBonte says the performance will include between 10 to 15 songs. On Thursday, the orchestra will rehearse with Nelly for the first time before a sound check and live performance. Nelly will bring four of his musicians to play with the orchestra.
Nelly says adjusting from playing with a small band to a full-blown orchestra has challenged and inspired him. “You tend to hear a little bit of things that you didn’t hear before in the beat,” he says. “It’s dope, though. It makes the transitions [smoother].”
Hearing his music in a fresh format brings new meaning to his hits.
“You connect in a different way because you’re in a different vibe,” he says. “Music is vibes. Music [has] emotion in it. It’s the situation that you set around it.”
Following the Fort Lauderdale performance, Nelly will take the family-friendly show to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and then to his hometown, where he’ll play with the St. Louis Symphony.
He’ll return to Fort Lauderdale in April for the fifth annual Tortuga Music Festival, which largely features country and roots acts.
“It won’t be my first time being the only hip-hop act on a bill,” he says, laughing. “It’s all granted to my fans allowing me to be who I am. I just like having a good time.”
“A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop Featuring Nelly” will start 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 Southwest Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets start at $45. Call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.