The one thing that the likes of P Diddy, Kanye, Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams had in common in their early days, was their drive to be bigger than their block, their barbershop and their local charts. They also know how to be hood when in the hood– but accessible when in the boardroom. Feeling good about the positive influence of hip-hop culture, MTV Base recently caught up with the triple threat that is N¤E¤R¤D to rejoice. Now I’m about to speak the truth so if you’re an irate record label rep or an overcontrolling artist manager look away now… I really like most things that Pharrell and co. stand for. But one thing I’m not down with is the angst that media go through when the N¤E¤R¤D trio (Pharrell, Chad and Shay) come to town.
Pharrell knows this. I once discussed it with him in Paris and he seemed genuinely surprised. I thought things would change but nothing has. Maybe he’s still unaware so here I am, shining some light on it again. When Pharrell sweeps into town on a solo trip, he is a pleasure to work with. However, if he is promoting anything N¤E¤R¤D -related, it’s hell for all press. Prior to the interview, we will get the usual record label emails instructing us to stay away from questions about Pharrell’s solo projects and only ask about N¤E¤R¤D music and direct questions equally to all three band members. But when we do this, they are all sullen, aloof and cold, and they made our presenter Reg Yates’ interview quite tough. Whilst they might all be tired and hate press, we are there to help them sell their music, so to make our lives unpleasant isn’t the best idea.
To all wear dark sunglasses and be unenthusiastic during an interview is just bad manners and I know Pharrell isn’t usually bad mannered from working with him. N¤E¤R¤D need to accept that Pharrell is positioned as the lead singer and so will naturally attract Bono-style attention. Furthermore, when all questions are directed at the whole, band but only Pharrell (mostly) answers, it’s a bigger joke! This is why artists and their teams need to get their positions quite clear. We are here to help you but you need to help us. Alternatively, do as Prince does: if you hate press or are tired, don’t do any. It’s easier all round. But alas, we got a few good quotes we can use and here are some of those gems of wisdom for you N¤E¤R¤D fans. A few tracks on the new album, Seeing Sounds have a Drum’n’Bass edge to them. But Pharrell insists he wasn’t influenced by the genre. “Yeah, it’s dope music, but when I was a kid, I was annoyed by it,” he revealed. “I was from America– hadn’t been to London yet. But I had friends who were totally into it.
I didn’t get any of that s*it but Chad did. He used to make music for the underground clubs– some really grimy, drum electro, electronic s*it.” “I was like, ‘that s*it is weird’, they looked weird, and we were already weird as they come, coz we were like super Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul fans at the time. But what I remembered of it became dope to me, years and years and years later. But I was 20 years late!” He continued: “But then your whole scene is incredible. Coldplay is killing it and I love Amy Winehouse. People can say whatever they want about her; talk about how she looks, about some of her issues. But musically, no-one wants to go on with her and battle it out, coz her album is flawless.” We then spoke about the new NERD track Spaz that has fans really excited. Pharrell said: “It’s an energetic song. The live shows are all about energy. It’s like taking a Redbull shot to you’re a** cheek. You know when you get a shot, like a flu shot.” On that note– with a feeling of ‘got some good quotes, but what a rigmarole– we escaped as fast as possible.