Nelly may not be topping the leaderboard on “Dancing With The Stars,” but he has been steadily improving over the course of the competition. On the most recent episode of the show, Nelly honored a hip-hop icon in one of his most enjoyable performances yet.
On the Nov. 9 episode of the show, Nelly and his professional partner, Daniella Karagach, were tasked with paying tribute to a legendary figure for “Icons Night.” The pair paid tribute to the late Tupac Shakur with a jazz rendition of his hit song, “California Love.”
During the pre-performance video package, Nelly said of the iconic rapper, “He was multi-talented. We all come with luggage, the good and the bad, but the passion behind his songwriting and ability to touch other people has inspired me.”
Nelly was also shown in the studio mixing the track, as he got the opportunity to re-work the song for his own performance. He posted about the performance on Instagram, mentioned how excited he was to honor Tupac and thanked his fans for their support.
“Wanna thank errbody who voted for ya boy tonight..!!!” he wrote. “It was A honor getting a chance to pay homage to my favorite icon #2pac ..!!! Thank you for da LUV”
The judges praised Nelly for looking more comfortable on stage, and commended him on his journey on the show so far. They each awarded him and his partner an eight, and the pair was able to advance to the next week of the competition, which takes them into the show’s semi-finals.
While “Icons Night” was a crowd-pleaser, Nelly’s highest-rated dance belongs to his Argentine Tango, performed to The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” on the Oct. 26 edition of the show. In honor of the program’s “Villains” theme, Nelly hit the floor in full Freddy Krueger regalia, including with the claw hand.
His commitment to the theme was rewarded, as each of the three judges gave him a nine out of 10 score, his first nines in the competition.
Nelly’s dances also have been meaningful, such as last week’s rumba to “Nobody Knows” by the Tony Rich Project, which People reported was dedicated to his late sister Jackie Donahue. Donahue passed away in 2005 at the age of 31 following a leukemia diagnosis.
“My sister Jackie was very special to me — she was my big sister, so she definitely acted like it,” he said in that episode’s video package. “She was a real tough cookie, such a loving and caring person, [and] she was the caption of the ship up until she was no longer able to be it.”
Nelly said his sister would have been amused by his newfound dancing shoes. “She would definitely have a chuckle about me dancing,” he said. “Dancing to one of Jackie’s favorite songs is dope. I miss Jackie an awful lot, I miss Jackie every day.”
In an interview with TVInsider, when asked about his progression on the show from a beginning score of 16, he said, “That makes me feel good. You’re working hard at something and trying to understand the ‘character’ of the dance as each one comes along.”
Nelly will perform on the Nov. 16 episode as part of the show’s top six at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.