Nelly's concert is reportedly a move towards normalizing public music performances, which have been, up to this point, significantly restricted.
However, the Saudi kingdom is in the midst of ambitious reforms led by 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The country's newly established General Entertainment Authority has worked to promote leisure activities in recent months with a budget of roughly $3 billion. Still, tickets to to the event-which cost up to $120-are only available to men, to the irritation of many women in the country.
Women took to Instagram and Twitter to express their disapproval calling it "stupid" to hold a male-only concert, USA media reported. Other critics have pointed out that Nelly was recently accused of sexual assault, though the rapper was never charged, and that in 2015 he pleaded guilty to the possession of marijuana.
Nevertheless, Nelly is slated to headline a December 14 concert in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia. Like Nelly, Keith also appeared at a male-only event, performing to a sold-out crowd alongside the well-known local lute player Rabeh Saqer.
Some reports on the concert suggested that Keith was asked not to include songs like Whiskey Girl and I Love This Bar, and was asked to tone down some of the lyrical content due to Saudi Arabia's strict laws against alcohol. Keith told the Atlantic he received strict orders not to perform any of his racy hits, or any songs about drinking, and definitely none about weed.
The highly-conservative country is known for placing many restrictions on women in various aspects of society.