The rap world may be filled with clones retracing each other’s steps. But with the release of their third album, “Seeing Sounds”, Shay, Chad and Pharrell want to show the world how boundaries can be your worst enemy. Hip Hops full of followers. From one song to the next, labels and artists have made money, hos and clothes as synonymous with the culture as the microphone itself. Maybe that’s why N¤E¤R¤D and their unique mashup of genres, fashion and swagger confuses the masses so much. Since their debut. 02’s “In Search Of…” the combination of production heavyweights The Neptunes with their childhood friend Shay Haley have been shining examples of Hip-Hop’s relentless creativity.
In fact, the producers of the crew made their names ring throughout popular culture by crafting the electro-infused soundscapes for Hip-Hoppers like Jay-Z, Nelly and Snoop Dogg abd pop acts like Gwen Stefani and Justin Timberlake. Exhibiting a frealessness rarely shown in the industry, the collective remains unafraid to make music that some heads wouldn’t classify as Hip-Hop. In doing this N¤E¤R¤D has found themselves quickly becoming the face of a new culture – one that is devoid of traditional barriers and rules.
In a landscape that is currently seeing themass merging of genres with bands like “Gym Class Heroes” and “Linkin Park”, along with the emergence of skater culture and 80’s fashion, the N¤E¤R¤D blueprint that was once considered weird, now seems groundbreaking. As they gear up for the Kanye West headlined “Glow In The Dark Tour” and again call upon their cult fan base with their new single “Everyone Nose”, the brothers of N¤E¤R¤D breaking down how they do their thing in hopes that you will find the strength to do yours.
Source: Tell us about the meaning behind the title of the album.
Pharrell: “Seeing Sounds”deals with a condition called synesthesia that most people experience in their everyday. Listening to music, sometimes you see colors, shapes or symbols. We named it “Seeing Sounds” because basically that’s what we want people to do.
Source: N¤E¤R¤D has gained a reputation for pushing the envelope. What’s the biggest difference between this album and the last one?
Pharrell: The last one was speaking to the people politically. This album is more about the individual and the subconscious and what goes through people’s minds. We just want to address that.
Source: The History of The Neptunes has been well-documented, but Shay, you are still somewhat of a mystery. How did you get started with the band?
Shay: Pharrell and myself met through my older cousin. Pharrell brought us together because we all had the same vision when it came to creating music and similar tastes in records we were hearing at the time, and it’s been the perfect match ever since.
Source: Pharrell is known fr his cameo appearances and solo albums but you and Chad have stayed below the radar: Did you guys choose to avoid the limelight purposely?
Shay: By choice, I never wanted to be the face of the group. I’ve always been the low-key type. It’s not about the success it’s about being heard. Me not being noticed is a blessing because I can do all the things a normal human does, and I still get to be a part of a great band. I don’t have to have some big goon over my back protecting me at all times.
Chad: Neptunes has always been my passion as far as production. I was passionate of N¤E¤R¤D but aware of what it took to be an artist. So I said from the start (to) Pharrell and Shay, “If we’re gonna do this and that then I can’t”. And they said, “Don’t worry, just occasional videos and award shows.”
Source: Chad, do you ever think about quitting altogether? Sometimes it seems like you have one foot already out the door.
Chad: I think in many cases it was. It’s hard to grasp the reigns as far as the music industry. It’s designed for single people. My situation is different. Otherwise it would be fun to just take off out of the stratosphere, out of control, make music for the masses. So one foot out the door? No, one foot on the floor.
Source: But you’ve decided to go on tour this the around. What changed your mind?
Chad: I wanted to see how fans were feeling and have them grasp the essence of N¤E¤R¤D. I consider myself a nerd. The term always meant the person who never fit in. I can relate, and people out there can relate, even pretty people! At the same time there’s some sexiness to it. (Laughs)
Source: We know that The Neptunes are beasts with production, but with a three-man crew do the roles stay the same?
Shay: I’m the conscience, the reminder that everything that we make isn’t always hot. My two colleagues have a history. They’re iconic figures so sometimes you get caught up in that. I remind these guys to push the envelope and leave our mark.
Chad: I just try to embody the music. It’s hard to explain. I know it would be different if I wasn’t there. It’s the essence of N¤E¤R¤D, me being here, being present. When I’m gone it’ll be a different show. (Laughs)
Source: Pharrell, with the combo of your cameos and your duties as lead singer, you’re the most visible. Do you ever have a problem with people focusing attention on you versus the band?
Pharrell: If I did, I probably ignored it, N¤E¤R¤D is the most important thing to me. N¤E¤R¤D is who I am first and foremost, all the other things are just offshoots.
Source: People have had a hard time classifying your music. Is it rock, pop, Hip-Hop?
Chad: I think it’s a reflection of society’s reflection of us. It’s rebellious, it’s aggressive, it makes people feel. It makes people move. I think it’s all in the spirit of Hip-Hop. If anyone was to say, “What is this kinda music?” I would say it’s black music, it’s Hip-Hop music, it’s dark music with some joy in it. I think it’s… I don’t want to say music for life… but I think that we set some trends, and it’s definitely in the spirit of the origins of Hip-Hop in the late 70’s as far as it being original and youth and people trying to find their voice through graffiti and dance and stuff.
“I think the average Hip-Hop head is inspired by different things too… We’re human beings capable of being entertained and inspired by many different things. That’s one of the things I fight for.”
The album criteria are simple, energetic and emotional. Some stuff can be over their heads, but here I have freedom because N¤E¤R¤D is for the people who thought likewe thought in high school and look at life the way we do. I mean, think about it. “Everyone Nose” is slows down and we on-judgingly have a conversation with the girl, who doesn’t want to hear it. That’s when I conclude, “OK, you would rather party ‘cause…,” and it goes back to the can of Red Bull.
Source: It’s not normal to inject messages into party songs. How do you guys stay so expressive and creative compared to other artists?
Pharrell: We’re always trying to push ourselves and keep an open mind. We don’t mind digging in the archives. Michael Jackon’s Off The Wall, The Black Album from Jigga, Eric B & Rakim’s Paid In Full, Marilyn Manson’s The Beautiful People. Those were classics they thought out, so I appreciate that. A lot of artists go in and do the first thing that comes to mind. That’s the thing, I’m not no more expressive, Common’s expressive…
Source: But those guys you just mentioned don’t really qualify as “the next bean” they seem to be more the exception that the rule. The club often isn’t the best place to deliver a message.
Pharrell: I understand that concept, but you should give people something to ponder. There was times when I didn’t understand T-Pain, but when I heard the entire club talking about “buy you a drink”, I got it, and I appreciate it but it’s about preference. I like well thought out records.
Source: Do you worry that you’re gonna go over people’s heads with your comcepts or music in thins dumbed-down environment?
Pharrell: Nah, N¤E¤R¤D is a band. The weirdest thing that could happen is for it to blow up because we like makinge music for smart people. In the Hip-Hop culture, for us, it’s all about intelligence, the people I work with are not dummies. They’re smart people just as interested in educating their listeners as anybody else. This is the movement and this is the side of what we do that needs to be explored and exploited more in my opinion.
Source: We can see the Hip-Hop in the N¤E¤R¤D blueprint but what are your other influences outside of music?
Chad: Infomercials, the Bible and a lot of old-school TV. Diff’rent Strokes, The Brady Bunch, My Favourite Martian, Mork & Mindy… I wouldn’t say I’minfluenced by that so much now, but I think that’s the root of it.
Source:That explains Star Trak and The Neptunes monikers. That’s a wild mix of influences.
Pharrell: The average Hip-Hop head is inspired by different things too, which is a huge issue I have. We allow media to think we’re for us, by us and only us and that’s not true. The average Hip-Hop head watches The Sopranos, The Price Is Right and SpongeBob SquarePants. None of these have any Hip-Hop innuendos. We’re human beings, capable of being entertained and inspired by many different things. That’s one of the things I fight for.
Source: Is that creative imagination the core of what you want people to get from your music?
Pharrell: Being happy. That’s what I preach to kids. Whatever you do in life, make sure it’s something you love. If you love. If you loveflipping burgers, do it. You know people that have billions of dollars and hate life? That’s why I say, “Wealth is of the heart and the mind and not in the pocket”.
Source: That’s the motto of your BBC clothing line…
Pharrell: Which people go, “Well, how can you say that and your clothes are expencive?” When you ask that question, it lets me know you don’t get it. The clothes are the billboard and people are wearing it because they believe it.
Source: But that’s always been one of your ongoing complaints. Do you ever get tired of dealing with people who “don’t get it?”
Pharrell: It could be worse. I could be on the corner passing you a demi. “Yo just check it out.” You’d look at me like, “nigga please.” I wanna inspire people to keep going in every way, shape or forum, no matter what. If I can inspire them in some way and make their lives better, then I know I’ve done my job. Thanks To Uncle Baby