“Women go through a lot, man,” Pharrell said, sighing, as we met up in a recording studio late last year. He was there to discuss Hidden Figures — on which he served as producer, songwriter, and composer (along with Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch) — which would shortly become one of this season’s box-office smash hits. An in-demand recording artist and producer, Pharrell carved out time for Hidden Figures in an effort to help elevate the untold story of three African-American women at NASA.
Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (singer-actor Janelle Monáe) whose math skills proved invaluable when it came to launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit in the 1960s. Pharrell had plenty to say about the film, but he also wanted to discuss how it plays after Donald Trump’s election, a political shock he claims to have foreseen.
How did you get involved with scoring the film, and what do you think you brought to it that might not otherwise have been there?
I came on as a producer first, and then musically, I had songs I wanted to use in the film. And I wanted Hans Zimmer, my big brother, to do the score and he was like, “Yeah, but you’re doing it with me.” We were thinking about how we could approach the score differently for three African-American women in the 1960s. Usually, when you think of a score, it’s very Anglo or Euro in terms of the chord progressions — the sound of victory for them is a very different thing. Hans did Gladiator, you know? It’s very Euro. So the point was to do something different. How do we make the sound of victory from an African-American’s point of view in the 1960s, and on top of that, add another layer of being female?
During the “Roxanne Wars” of the mid-Eighties, a battle of words spilled across nearly 50 12-inch singles, captivating the earliest generation of hip-hop fans. With the first volley emerging in late 1984, the records not only showcased an early indication of the young genre’s commercial potential, but immediately catapulted 14-year-old Lolita “Roxanne Shanté” Gooden from the Queensbridge Projects to national fame.
However, the fictional beef of the Roxanne Wars paled in comparison to the drama unfolding in Gooden’s real life. Roxanne, Roxanne, the long-awaited feature film detailing the true story of the razor-tongued hip-hop pioneer, is unlike any other rap biopic. Writer-director Michael Larnell eschews the creation myths, superhero narratives and obsessive musical focus of films like 8 Mile, Straight Outta Compton and Notorious, preferring a portrait of a teenager balancing school, poverty, big sister responsibilities, early pregnancy and domestic abuse while a rap career burns in the background.
Pharrell Williams on Art and Life in Trump’s America: “It Is Time to Galvanize”
Before his film Roxanne Roxanne storms Sundance, we caught up with the musician-slash-producer with the golden touch. Unlike some of his colleagues in the entertainment industry, Pharrell Williams did not boycott the 2016 Oscars ceremony over its lack of non-white nominees. But in the year since, he has deepened his efforts at bringing films featuring black actors to life—and to the big screen.
Williams began this campaign via his production company, i am OTHER, in 2015, with the stylish, 90s-obsessed teen-heist dramady Dope, which premiered at Sundance that year. This year, he has been a vocal production force—a non-silent partner, if you will—behind the major hit Hidden Figures. And this weekend, at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, we will see the Acura-sponsored premiere of Roxanne Roxanne, a buzzy film about the 80s New York hip-hop scene and a female rapper who helped inspire the epic “Roxanne Wars,” as well as a slew of answer records.
Forum Member Rafito just released his first video by his collective called MOSA from Brazil with the tune xXx, make sure to check it out above!
“Sup, guys! I am apart of a colective called MOSA, from Brazil. It got 2 producers and they did a beat called xXx and I decided to do some visuals for it. The whole thing I did on Movie Maker (yes I know I should be ashamed), cause I never done anything like it. But it turns out good. And it contains some “homage” to Pharrell in some way. Hope u guys like it”
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