The grainy photos posted on the depressing Realtor.com listing for Nelly’s crumbling mansion are almost too hard to scroll through. Listed at a sale price of US $599,000 the sprawling Missouri mansion is tired, so tired. The rooms appear spontaneously abandoned as if Nelly had been halfway through his day before deciding to up and leave.
The floors are covered in dust and grime. The back yard is a dumping ground littered with discarded pot plants and stacks of bricks. And yet, if you squint hard enough, blur your vision, so the rough edges soften then fade away, Nelly’s crumbling mansion could be straight from MTV Cribs.
Both Nelly and MTV cribs were a big deal in the early 2000s. Cribs debuted on MTV in September 2000, and by 2005, Cribs had featured tours of the homes of over 185 celebrities, including musicians, actors, and athletes.
Long before social media and the internet removed the buffer between celebrities and fans, MTV Cribs took us closer to the people we admired. Imagine being able to see what Snoop Dogg keeps in his pantry; which kind of toilet paper Missy Elliot uses?
MTV Cribs purposely ditched the host format, allowing the featured celebrity to invite the audience directly into their home. For a generation who grew up believing they could (and would) achieve anything they put their minds to, MTV Cribs was proof that it was possible.
I wasted countless hours as a teenager ogling the (typically garish) houses of rappers, complete with fish tanks and hot tubs and bowling alleys. The more I watched MTV Cribs, the more I convinced I became that one day I too would own a ten-bedroom house, occupied mostly by my entourage and live-in staff. There would room for my six cars and a helipad.
This is what makes these desperate real estate pictures of Nelly’s crumbling mansion so sobering. Cycling through the listing, I can easily be transported back to that time, the MTV Cribs era when everyone – me, Nelly, you – believed that things were going to get better.
Looking at the photos, you can almost see the Ride Wit Me rapper swinging, opening the doors and uttering the now-legendary opening line from MTV Cribs, “Hey, I’m Nelly, and welcome to my crib,” before welcoming you inside.
The walls of Nelly’s crumbling mansion may currently be bare, but back then, they would have been decorated with platinum records. Nelly might have given the awards a cursory glance before running up the marble staircase, two steps at a time.
“Let me show you where the real cool shit is,” Nelly would’ve said before opening his closet to reveal a wardrobe bursting with sneakers, designer clothes and too-shiny jewellery.
It was moments like this that formed much of the daydreaming for the MTV Cribs generation.
We wondered aloud what our cribs would look like, speculated on how many swimming pools were too many, blissfully ignorant to the realities that lay ahead. Fast forward to today, and most of us would crawl over broken glass for an apartment with good natural light and no obvious mould issues.
In many ways, MTV Cribs propped up the fantasy, perpetuating the myth that one day we would all live happily ever after in our enormous six-bedroom cribs. But for solid proof that fantasy was precisely that, a fantasy, we need to look no further than Nelly’s crumbling mansion.
At the time of writing, the global property market continues to squeeze and contract in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here in Australia, historically low-interest rates have sparked a buying frenzy pushing the average price house to all-time highs.
Meanwhile, in America, an estimated 28 million Americans will face eviction before the end of the year.
Which makes it all the more shocking that MTV has decided to reboot Cribs in 2021. The first season is set to feature Caitlyn Jenner, YouTuber Jojo Siwa and Selling Sunset’s Christine Quinn.
A part of me hopes that I won’t tune in, but a larger part of me (the more genuine part) knows I won’t be able to help myself. The lure of getting a sneak peek behind the curtain, a look into the lives of the rich and famous, still proves too much. Plus, JoJo Siwa apparently has a room dedicated just for snacking.
But I won’t fall for the same MTV Cribs gimmick. The minute I sense myself slipping, daydreaming, I will think of Nelly’s crumbling mansion in Missouri. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.