ut if Suit couldn’t produce something that could come close to “Lose Yourself”, Sweat’s opening track, “Heart of Champion”, nearly gets there. That is, until the NBA on NBC theme awkwardly comes in as the anchor to the chorus. Aside from John Tesh, the Lincoln University Vocal Ensemble offers their talent on the track making it even more overblown than its sports-metaphor lyrics might suggest. It wavers, predictably, on that delicate precipice between brilliant and unutterably horrible. And that’s actually where much of Sweat falls.
Which is more than can be said for its counterpart. Suit suffers from a stultifying sameness that pulls it down to a mediocre buzz that Sweat’s opening salvo of “Heart of a Champion”, “Na-Nana-Na” featuring Jazze Pha once again and “Flap Your Wings” which is the Neptunes’ stab at “Hot in Herre” (doesn’t quite make it, but comes damn close) sweeps away easily.
Sadly, Nelly sees fit to big up his crew on the next two tracks, which is a bad idea, especially considering the bomb that was Murphy Lee’s solo record. Admittedly, “River Don’t Runnn” nods towards Jamaica, but it never bothers to take a stand towards hip-hop or reggae, leaving it a lifeless dirge of lost potential. Things get back on track with the Christina Aguilera led “Tilt Ya Head Back”, an obvious future single.
From there, things take a turn for the predictable. Missy, Fat Joe and Ali all feature on subsequent tracks that rush by without much of an effect, aside from the closing crunk epic “Boy”. It melds the curling synths of the deep south with the rolling 808s that have come to signify the Midwestern sound. Lil’ Flip turns in an uninspiring verse, but the production is too weird not to ignore what he’s saying in favor of the synths-rolling-down-a-pane-of-glass sounds that come to bear heavily by the end of the track.
It’s a dubious concept, releasing two CDs on the same day and selling them separately. Outkast and R. Kelly have almost set a bad example for the rest of the hip-hop community by laying to waste the myth that it can’t be done well. But, then again, they simply have the incredible talent to be able to pull it off adequately. Unfortunately, Nelly’s always been less of an artist (Outkast) or a compelling story (Kelly) and frankly wears thin over the course of each disc, let alone both back to back.
That being said, Sweat’s the obvious keeper for those looking for the follow-up to Nellyville. It’s sleek, full of jams, throws in a collaboration with a well-known female singer and clocks in at just less than an hour. What more could you want? And please don’t answer that with Suit.