Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Clone Wars......Pharrell From The Neptunes

Words by Carlito
Interview by Neicy Overton

Traveling south on interstate 264 will bring you to a place known for lovers…but if you take another look you will see music lovers and your eyes will be focused on a small framed skateboarder at heart by the name of Pharrell Williams. Virginia Beach is the breeding ground of some of urban music’s most influential notables: Missy, Timberland, and Teddy Riley. The latter is the one that spotted Pharrell at a local talent show he, Teddy, was holding at a nearby high school in which he let Pharrell’s group perform. The group consisted of Pharrell and his high school band mate Chad Hugo and two singers. Though Riley liked what he saw and signed the group “Neptunes” to his Lil’ Man Records. Riley did not have the immediate backing of a major label to put out acts but Pharrell looked at this as an opportunity to craft his skills. Williams and Hugo began hanging around the studio, learning the ropes, and contributing to Riley’s various projects. Remember Teddy Riley’s verse on the old school classic “New Jack Swing?” Guess who ghostwrote that? You guessed it – Pharrell. However, the Neptune’s were getting restless. Therefore, Chad and Pharrell left to be independent producer for hire, briefly getting a deal with EMI, which quickly ended just as fast as it got started. Pharrell was stuck with a lot of ideas and concepts but no one could see his vision. “Your sound is psychedelic”, record companies said, “too spacey.” After producing a couple of tracks for SWV, “Use Your Heart” and “When This Feeling”, along came a guy called Puffy. Puff hired the duo for the classic album “Harlem World”.
Pharrell could feel the fire burning and believed this could be the break they needed to get them to musical dominance. Hip-Hop has always been known for trend setting so the Neptune’s original polyrhythmic sound sent the game into a whirlwind. N.O.R.E set things off with “Super Thug” followed by the ODB hit “Got Your Money” with their soon to be protégé Kelis singing the hook. As they began to get more notoriety, Pharrell wanted more. “I used to beg record companies for some exposure in the videos”, he exclaimed.
The millennium launched Pharrell into orbit where he shows no signs of returning to earth, with hits like Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love Ya’” and Mystikal’s “Shake Ya’ Ass”, Snoop’s “Beautiful”, Busta’s “Pass the Courvoisier, Part 2”, and Nelly’s “Hot In Herre”. Not one to be confined to one style, we cannot forget hits such as N’Sync’s “Girlfriend” and Usher’s “U Don’t Have to Call”, these two singles capped off a good year for the duo gaining them two Grammy awards.
With all the accolades and success a person could want, Pharrell, never one to stand out in a crowd never changed his low-key image of a t-shirt and shorts with skateboard sneakers and trucker’s hat. Pharrell has the music world adapting to his style, which is why he adopted the moniker N.E.R.D (No One Ever Really Dies) for the trio’s (himself, Chad and the seldom seen Shay Haley) first group project “ In Search of…” The album was a far cry from what the average hip-hop fan was use to: an eclectic mixture of rock, hip-hop and funk. “It’s a different style and only real heads will be able to ride to it.” Last year the Neptunes blessed us with “The Neptunes Present: Clones” and the lead Pharrell single “Frontin”. With the help of his buddy Jay-Z lending a flawless eight bars Pharrell sang his well renowned falsetto tone to an impressive 700 radio spins per week, and also garnered platinum status for the album. So after a platinum debut and charting everyone from Britney to Justin to Janet to Jay-Z, you must know by now that Pharrell AKA “Fa real” is the truth and any artist wanting to sell records may want a Neptunes credit somewhere on their album.
Even with the successful navigation, recent situations caused turbulence on the Star Trak Enterprise. One starting with the shufflings going on within the music industry, the Captain Kirk (Pharrell) has gathered the troops on his ship (The Clipse, Roscoe P. [Coldchain], & Fam-Lay) and moved the Star Trak imprint from Arista records to conquer a new mission at Interscope. With the move comes a few pitfalls, former label mate Kelis has left Star Trak to pursue her career elsewhere. Also, the newest album from N.E.R.D, “Fly or Die”, is getting a decent reception from fans - selling
340, 000 copies in its first 10 weeks. The group’s first single “She Wants To Move” is what Pharrell calls “punk soul”. This is a bold move creatively but commercially it has been lukewarm while being hailed a masterpiece by their dedicated fan base.

“The Neptunes are who we are and N.E.R.D is what we do.”

Streetz: What is the message that you are trying to push?

Pharrell: Ain’t really no real message behind it ya know? I think messages will come to each of you after a while…you just have to make some good music. Once you get started in explaining what it is…I don’t know it just changes all the time.

Streetz: Where did it come from?

Pharrell: The name…N.E.R.D. We wanted to celebritize the term and then we made it an acronym to add some substance behind it.

Streetz: Your source of inspiration, where does it come from?

Pharrell: Life, everyday experiences.

Streetz: Earlier in the year a lot of major labels merged. You were apart of Arista and you are now with Interscope, what’s going on with your acts like the Clipse and Kelis? Are you guys still gonna be working with them? Or…?

Pharrell: Kelis is doing her own thing, know what I’m sayin. We endorse that 100% and the Clipse is coming over there with us at [Interscope].

Streetz: What are some of the new projects we should be looking out for?

Pharrell: Clipse “Hell Hath No Fury”, Fam-Lay and his album is called “Train of Gold” and Roscoe P. [Coldchain] “Don’t Mess With My Cash” - look out for that. I got new beats coming out this summer, look out for Jadakiss, new Nelly…

Streetz: That leads me to my next question; I know for Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” you sampled DC legend Chuck Brown. What is your whole view on Maryland, DC and VA comin’ up in the game?

Pharrell: Lovely but it’s not really where you’re from just do what you do and chase the stars. It really doesn’t matter man, people can’t really hold you down when you got people behind you. You just have to make a name for yourself and another thing is, we be going to these crazy remote areas where there is like three mailboxes in the whole fuckin’ town and they be like, “We’re having a hard time getting in[to] the music industry.” Yeah! You probably would have just as hard of [a] time playing for the Chicago Bulls if you lived on the moon. You have to put yourself in the market and you have to market yourself as hard as you can. You have to study your craft cuz a lot of people get bent on one demo like, “Yo! I got a super tight demo”, but before you know it the cat was working on the shit for five years and the shit is super dated. Like niggas don’t even wear they jeans the same as you did when you put the demo together.


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