Is NLE Choppa’s Nelly Flip ‘It’s Getting Hot’ a Bop or Flop?
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Is NLE Choppa’s Nelly Flip ‘It’s Getting Hot’ a Bop or Flop?

Jun 21, 2023

Last month, the interpolation gods set their sweaty-ass sights on “Hot in Herre,” the 2002 hit single by rapper and unofficial Band-Aid spokesman Nelly. Erica Banks and producer SGT J already scratched the song’s surface when they flipped “I think my butt getting big” into 2020’s breakout “Buss It.” But that was an entirely new track based off one sample. NLE Choppa, on the other hand, decided to skip subtlety entirely by snatching the entire original Neptunes beat and Nelly hook wholesale for his new single, “It’s Getting Hot.” The homage had people, well, hot, as if Choppa had just desecrated someone’s headstone. But not everyone was scandalized by the Memphis rapper’s choice, which is why we put together two of Vulture’s resident millennials to debate the merits of interpolating a Hall of Fame aughts track for our current era of commercialized nostalgia.

Hershal Pandya: Alex, I think this song is an obviously cheap ploy and emblematic of so many things wrong with the music industry right now that the initial burden of proof to explain why it’s not a gigantic flop falls on you.

Alex Suskind: Yes, the rumors are true. I love NLE Choppa’s “It’s Getting Hot,” which seems to have pissed off everyone on the internet who still owns a physical copy of Free City. Look, I understand where they’re coming from — I’m a millennial who knows every word to “Greed Hate Envy” and gets cantankerous when certain singles I hold dear are cheaply interpolated. MGK and Camila Cabello doing a Fastball impression? Nope. Coi Leray snatching an iconic Daft Punk hook (to add to her already lengthy list of song-flip crimes)? Hard pass. It’s not that the originals are untouchable, exactly. It’s that the new verses are boring. If you’re going to flip an old song, lean into the bit. Just look at how much fun Choppa is having in the video. He slapped on his best bandage for the occasion and changed the wording on those legendary “Nellyville” booty shorts to “NLEville.” I don’t even disagree with you that it’s a ploy. But it made me smile and shuffle around my apartment, which in my very loose criteria makes it a big ol’ bop.

Pandya: I, too, have had to rein in bouts of reflexive, old-head anger when it comes to young artists lifting entire sections wholesale from obvious cultural touchstones. But I’d like to think my tantrums are less severe now. The first time I heard the Weeknd’s hook on Metro Boomin’s “Creepin,” I got irrationally upset at the laziness of the flip. But then I reminded myself that Mario Winans’s “I Don’t Wanna Know” is only too obvious a sample to me. Nineteen-year-olds today don’t know that song, so I begrudgingly accepted it as fair game. “Hot in Herre,” on the other hand, has never gone anywhere! I still hear it constantly. And, sure, maybe Choppa is paying homage, but it feels more calculated than that. I’m not against giving Nelly his flowers, but this feels like dropping off a Brinks truck of marigolds on his front lawn in a gaudy attempt to film a viral TikTok about the stunt.

Suskind: For the record, I too am Team Mario > Metro, mostly because the original rips and hearing Abel’s voice in a post-Idol world gives me the heebie-jeebies. But then if I was listening to Nelly’s version repeatedly over the last 21 years like you have been, I might toss its future interpolation into the flop pile too. Perhaps I was already open to hearing a Choppa version before it came out; I haven’t given Sweatsuit a spin since I was in high school. Also, I’ll note that the anger some people have toward this track is absolutely wild. Heads online are treating Nelly like fucking Tupac and not an aughts-era party rapper (albeit a talented and influential one!). But let me ask you this: What if your last decade was actually “Hot in Herre”–less? Do you think you could have enjoyed the new version then? Or even the tongue-in-cheek video? (Bonus questions: Where are you hearing “Hot in Herre” constantly? Drake’s spot on Bridle Path? A Tim Horton’s that age-gates anyone not born in the ’80s or ’90s?)

Pandya: Like all native Torontonians, I spend my evenings and weekends at Drake’s crib, toosie sliding to old Nelly hits and brainstorming obscure internet outlets for him to do his next interview. I think the primary place I still hear “Hot in Herre” is during the obligatory early-2000s portion of any DJ’s playlist at a bar or wedding reception, when they inevitably cycle through the same six songs to manipulate people into thinking they had a good time by tapping into their own ability to remember the past. I’m not saying it’s the hottest song in the streets right now, but I’d argue it carries a certain degree of cultural omnipotence that transcends this. Either way, I fear I am veering dangerously close to litigating what things from my teen years “the kids” do and do not know, so to save myself the embarrassment, I will note that, from a musical standpoint, I enjoy Choppa’s updated percussion. The thundering 808s and pre-chorus hand claps add a refreshing depth to the beat. As for everything else (the verses, the hook, the video), it’s all too close to the original, so I can’t tell if my enjoyment has anything to with Choppa or if he — much like those DJs — is just manipulating me by exploiting my functional capacity for memory. When would you listen to this rather than just listen to Nelly’s original? Is there even one moment in this song as powerful as when Nelly says, “Girl, I think my butt getting big!”?

Suskind: Nelly’s “I think my butt getting big” is an absolute classic. It’s one of those lyrics that was referenced so much the year the song came out it was probably required to pay taxes. But it’s also a time capsule — stuck in the aughts just after the heroin-chic era where everyone was actually worried about how large their ass was. Even in our current cursed Ozempic moment, folks are willing to spring for budget BBLs to get more likes on IG grid photos. That makes Nelly’s line fun but dated. It’s also pretty PG compared to Choppa’s opening salvo: “Come on, shake that monkey / Put dick in your life if you’re lonely”? (Also, you owe Juvenile a writing credit.) Choppa willing to throw his own patented filth over a Neptunes beat makes them at least nominally different. At this point, is there any interpolation/flip you actually do enjoy? Or are you still clinging comfortably to your AARP-approved cloud?

Pandya: I’ll admit “Put dick in your life if you’re lonely” is amusing in its directness, but it just doesn’t pop the same way as “I’m just kiddin’ like Jason, unless you gon’ do it.” But you’re right: It’s been 21 years and the references need refreshing, even if I do not necessarily agree “Hot in Herre” is the comparative ode to sex negativity you’re painting it as. I’m not against a good update when it’s done tastefully. I hate to reinforce those Toronto stereotypes again, but when I think of clever interpolations, I often think of Drake’s use of J. Lo’s “If You Had My Love” on “Teenage Fever” and the way he recontextualized it in an unexpected way. On the other hand, I’ll end by asking you: Have you come full circle on these types of interpolations now? Or would you describe your enjoyment of them as limited? As limited, perhaps, as the percentage of royalties Choppa will likely receive on “Too Hot”?

Suskind: Honestly, as long as Nelly got paid, I’m happy.

Pandya: Whatever keeps him out of those torturous Honey Nut Cheerios commercials where they flip the chorus of “Ride Wit Me” into “Ayy, must be the honey!”

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