Nelly's tricky Saudi Arabia gig

American rapper Nelly
American rapper Nelly

NEW YORK • American rapper Nelly could have a problem choosing what songs to sing.

To be more precise, he may not have enough non-objectionable songs to wow the crowd in conservative Saudi Arabia, where he will perform next month with Algerian singer Cheb Khaled.

In May, Toby Keith had faced the same dilemma when he sung in Riyadh, the capital. He later said he had been given strict instructions not to sing about drinking, drugs or sex - no easy task for a lauded country singer famous for songs such as Whiskey Girl and I Love This Bar.

Nelly's most famous song Hot In Herre (2002) references alcohol, alludes to marijuana and implores women to take off their clothes - all three no-gos in a country where alcohol is banned, drug smugglers face the death penalty and women are expected to cover their bodies and heads while in public.

And just like Keith's concert, tickets to Nelly's show, which cost as much as US$120 (S$162), are available only to men.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2017, with the headline 'Nelly's tricky Saudi Arabia gig'. Print Edition | Subscribe