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Rapper Nelly performs and gives advice to UF students

University of Florida students gathered at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center for a free performance by rapper Nelly on Tuesday night.

The event was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., but due to a low turnout, the show was delayed for an hour. As students continued to arrive, the arena announced that all guests seated in the stands were welcome to disregard their assigned seats and head to the open floor. A larger crowd formed before Nelly’s on-stage appearance at 8 p.m., but the arena seats were mostly empty.

“I definitely would have preferred if there were more people because it felt a little empty at the beginning,” UF freshman Jennifer Cardenas said. “Once he started with the music, it got better and I enjoyed it.”

The 19-year-old political science major said she originally did not know who Nelly was, but once her friend explained, she was excited to attend.

Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., better known by his stage name Nelly, has had four No.1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. He performed several of his hits on Tuesday, including “Ride Wit Me,” “Just a Dream,” “Dilemma” and “Hot in Herre.”

Many students in attendance, including 20-year-old sophomore Sophia Perez, said they did not want to pass up the opportunity for a free concert. She said she had never been to an ACCENT speaker event.

“I like concerts a lot and I write a list of people I’ve seen live, so why not add another,” Perez said.

Nelly performed on Tuesday with his brother Lavell Webb, an American rapper and record producer known by his stage name City Spud. Webb helped record and produce four to five tracks on the debut album, “Country Grammar,” Nelly said.

Nelly expressed his gratitude between songs for those in the crowd who continued to show their support since the start of his career in 2000.

“Because of you I am allowed to continue to perform shows like this that fulfill me,’ he said.

He acknowledged that some students may have been introduced to his music by their parents, older siblings and grandparents who were around during the time of his first songs.

UF freshman zoology major Camila Pou, 19, said she attended the concert because she grew up as a Nelly fan in her household. She said she stood in front of the stage and thought the performance was fun.

“I have an older sister who grew up listening to him so I would listen to his music with her,” she said.

Nelly shared advice with the crowd and emphasized the importance of focusing on what you love to do to be successful and be a better person.

“At the end of the day, just be a good person,” he said. “You don’t have to be the most famous person or the richest person — just have a good heart.”

He later announced his new album, which will be released at the end of the year. It is an extension of his country-influenced album “Heartland” in which he had the opportunity to be involved in an all-Black country tour, he said.

Student Government Productions and ACCENT Speakers Bureau hosted the event. Both organizations are agencies of the UF Student Government. Student Government Productions hosts yearly concerts for UF students to attend at a free or reduced cost, and ACCENT invites prominent guests to speak at the university.

Hailey is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing