Nelly Makes His Return to Ottawa With ‘All Work, No Play’

April 08th, 2018

It’s been a couple of years since country grammar made an appearance in the capital. Bluesfest 2016 was the last time, to be exact. This time around, he was setting his stage at the Algonquin College Commons Theatre and bringing with him some brand new music from his upcoming ‘All Work, No Play’ album. 

Nelly Algonquin College

Photo by Jordan MacDonald

Before we get into Nelly himself, attention must be paid to our favourite supporting performer of the night– Haviah Mighty. It’s a little nerve-racking when you hear a female emcee’s name on a roster because your mind tends to go to that “please don’t let her sound like a Nicki Minaj copycat” place. We were beyond surprised. The 24 year old Toronto-born rapper came onto the stage with the soul and energy of a true performer– of someone who knew what the f*ck they were doing. Her ability to connect with the crowd had a theatre full of strangers amped over songs they were just now learning the words to. Let’s not forget to mention her loyal ass cheering section who did know every word. Her quick fire bars and her ability to fill a huge stage with her talent alone was female empowerment in hip hop at its finest. We were hooked. BY THE WAY, we need not ignore the fact that she did all of this while spinning her own set. BECAUSE WHO NEEDS A DJ? One word: dope.

Photos by Jordan MacDonald

On to the man of the night. Seeing his performance at Bluesfest left us with zero doubt that we were in for a treat. I mean, it’s the rapper who brought us “Hot in Herre”, the club banger from 2002 that STILL makes the rotation at every party. The show started off on the highest note with an even older track “E.I.”. It was on and poppin’ from the first “uh ohhhhhhh!”. Much like last time, Nelly’s crowd brought out an eclectic group of people from all age ranges and walks of life. It’s interesting to see how certain people’s music can span across decades and generations of fans. Not to mention how fun the art of people-watching at a Nelly concert is when you see crop tops and Supreme logos on some, then fur coats and throwback jerseys on others. One thing they all have in common: they know every word and ad-lib to every song 18+ years later. Timeless.

After rifling through the obligatory classics including “Air Force Ones” and “Ride Wit Me”, Nelly took some time to introduce his newest project in the works, All Work, No Play. It’s often difficult to make a comeback when you are as iconic as face bandaids; Usually, it’s just not the same. Judging from what we heard, Nelly is still as crisp as white tees and timberlands. Translation: his new stuff is good. Much to the style these days, there is a bit more singing on this album than elitist hip hop fans may admit to liking, but it works for him. We think fans are in for a treat. 

Despite being clowned for Kelly Rowland attempting to text him via Excel, the night ended up with an homage to one of his more romantic songs “Dilemma”. It was like a freaking Kiwanis Choir up in that theatre by the end of the night; The lights came on, the music was lowered, and the song was carried by the voices of a sold out crowd of 600+ people. Dilemma has never sounded so beautiful. 

Nelly’s 8th studio album ‘All Work, No Play’ is slated to release in 2018.

Photos by Jordan MacDonald

These photos may not be cropped or edited in any way and must only be for personal use with credit to ©Envy Magazine and ©Jordan MacDonald. For commercial use of photos, please send in a request to

Share This