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NPR Arts & Life

Fans Stream 'Hot In Herre' On Repeat To Save Nelly From Tax Debt

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Here's a sentence we don't usually get to say on NPR. Nelly's 2002 hit "Hot In Here" is back in the news.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT IN HERRE")

NELLY: (Singing) Hot in - so hot in here - in here. So hot in - hot in - hot in...

MCEVERS: By the way, that is spelled with two Rs.

NELLY: (Singing) Oh.

MCEVERS: TMZ reported Sunday that Nelly had been hit with a $2.4 million federal tax lien. When Spin magazine writer Brian Josephs read the news, he was stunned.

BRIAN JOSEPHS: I don't - I don't think I'm going to make that money in my lifetime. That's insane to me.

MCEVERS: But then he had an idea. Spotify pays out a bit less than one cent every time a song is streamed. So Josephs wrote a story where he estimated how many times we would collectively have to stream Nelly's songs to help him pay off his tax bill.

JOSEPHS: And you get this huge - this number - over 280 million times.

MCEVERS: Or, to be exact, 287,176,547 streams, and actually that's just at the low end. Spotify's royalty also has to pay for the record label and the rights holders, so it might actually be over double that. Josephs says, sure, the idea was a bit, to use his word, harebrained.

JOSEPHS: But, like, people was all-in about, like, hey, there's an excuse to stream "Hot In Herre" millions of times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT IN HERRE")

NELLY: (Singing) So hot. So take off all your clothes.

DANI STEVENSON: (Singing) I am getting so hot I want to take my clothes off.

NELLY: (Singing) Oh, it's getting...

MCEVERS: Josephs' piece caught the attention of a lot of lapsed Nelly fans, and the hashtag #SaveNelly started trending on Twitter. One person wrote - Nelly gave us hits for the middle school dances. We owe him. Another user wrote - put "Hot In Herre" on loop while you're sleeping with the volume down. Teamwork make the dream work. Hashtag #SaveNelly.

JOSEPHS: I think it was the last piece we published that day, and, like, it blew up like crazy. And last night, actually, Colbert did a segment. It was like - Colbert cares about Nelly? This is amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT")

STEVEN COLBERT: Now, Nelly, I want to help you, so I went over your numbers with my accountant, Wendy, and she was quite alarmed.

MCEVERS: And James Corden on CBS's "Late Show" pitched in, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN")

JAMES CORDEN: Let's help Nelly out, shall we?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOT IN HERRE")

NELLY: (Singing) It's getting hot in here.

MCEVERS: Brian Josephs of Spin magazine says it's impressive what people can do when they put their minds to it.

JOSEPHS: This is amazing. This is the power of the culture speaking. It's the will of the people. I hope Nelly appreciates it.

MCEVERS: So far, Nelly has not responded to all this, but if he wants to reflect on why he might have ended up with a $2.4 billion tax bill, we're here to help.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIDE WIT ME")

NELLY: (Singing) Now, if you want to go and take a ride with me, we three-wheeling in the four with the gold Ds. Oh, why do I live this way? Hey, must be the money. If you want to go and get - with me, smoke a - in the back of the Benz E. Oh, why must I feel this way? Hey, must be the money. In the club on the late night, feeling right, looking, trying to spot something real nice, looking for a little shorty I noticed so that I can take home. I can take home. She can be 18 - 18 - with an attitude or 19... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.