Skateboard P is running behind on his interviews. Posted up in New York’s Four Seasons hotel, the ProducerMC/Singer/Fashion Icon is promoting his latest venture with Converse – one that according to him is strictly creative. The recent genius of Pharrell Williams is one that has manifested itself in everything from N¤E¤R¤D and The Glow In The Dark Tour to his collabs with Madonna, Common, and the completely hushed Child Rebel Soldier (CRS) project. When Pharrell does emerge in the hotel room, he is clad in a buttoned down cardigan with a red baseball cap and shades – like an upgraded member of Boyz II Men. Pha-Real is appropriately sporting some studded Chuck Taylors and his diamond-encrusted wrist displays one of his G-Shock originals with his signature dude Milo displayed on the back. But Pharrell isn’t style over substance in the least.
Sure, he kicks back on the hotel sofa and waxes philosophical on everything from eating messy foods with a knife (caramel apples, corn on the cob, and ribs) to ducking any questions about his project with ‘Ye and them. The night before Pharrell finished filming the “Everyone Nose” Remix video and now after a long press day looks a bit tired. However, he is moved with energy when speaking about the fans, his army. That is one of the many aspects of Pharrell that separates him from other veterans in the Hip-Hop game. He’s 100% devoted to making music for the people. His animation and his smile when he speaks about his live shows let you know that no matter how many watches, sneakers, or fancy hotels with candy apples cross his path, his loyalty remains with his “army.” As for the rest, well, that’s interesting…
AllHipHop.com: So, before we go into the music, I just wanted to talk to you about a few signature Pharrell swagger items. What’s the most recent thing you had gold plated?
Pharrell: Man, I haven’t done that in a long time this is my last thing, the BlackBerry.
AllHipHop.com: The Blackberry and then your iPhone too, right?
Pharrell: Yeah, those are the last things.
AllHipHop.com: Really? And where’s the G-Shock. I saw the pictures.
Pharrell: [lifts sleeve to display watch] This is one of them.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I saw the brown one.
Pharrell: We made a black diamond one too, with black diamonds and black gold.
AllHipHop.com: You have a good eye, Pharrell.
Pharrell: It’s fun.
AllHipHop.com: So I guess discussing the whole cross branding thing will lead us into Converse and your working with them. How did that come about?
Pharrell: Well, let me correct you. It’s not cross branding, ’cause cross branding is when a corporation comes to you and says, “Look we need a commercial; we need music. It’s gotta say this is our mantra, this is our tagline for the season,” and [Converse] didn’t do that. Those guys just called a meeting, we got to that meeting and we were like, “So what do we gotta do?” They were like, “Nothing. We just want to pay you to do music.” “So, okay what do the music gotta say?” “Oh whatever you want.” “What do you mean, whatever you want?” “Whatever you want. Just do whatever you wanna do; it’s cool.” I’m like, “What?” They were like, “Yeah and we’ll also pay for one or two other people [Julian Casablancas & Santogold] or whomever else you want on the track.” I’m like where’s the catch? “There is no catch, we just want to commission you.” It was almost like an art house project like, “We want to commission you to do a piece of anything you wanna do.” So for me it was just kinda like simple, like alright cool.I liked it ‘cause first of all Converse has been here for like one hundred years literally and that is what this is about. Number two, it’s been on like every artist that’s ever walked, graced the earth that mattered that had like that rebellious Rock-n-Roll attitude, right? Like who don’t wear [Converse], from skaters to breakers to movie stars to rock stars, like it’s everywhere.
AllHipHop.com: Is there any discussion for a Pharrell-inspired Converse since you have a real eye for being able to look at something existing and just kind of put the Pharrell into it?
Pharrell: That’s interesting.
AllHipHop.com: That’s a question mark I guess right?
Pharrell: I was just thinking, that’s interesting.
AllHipHop.com: The [promotional] song “My Drive Thru” is a cool song.
Pharrell: It’s cool, right? It’s fun.
AllHipHop.com: And the video is hot too.
Pharrell: Thank you. Look I gotta say man, it was their idea. They were like just have fun. Yeah, they were like by the way we’ll do a video too, so cool. We’re having a ball, man. The N.E.R.D project is fun – the respect for it is retarded, the shows, the energy kids come and it’s retarded it’s just like dumb, so crazy. I’m having such a wonderful time. Like those kids spaz out and like to just have this song playing at the same time as “Everyone Nose” and “Spaz” now emerging is just so fun. It’s just a dream come true to be able to do what you wanna do.
AllHipHop.com: How would you describe the difference in the army that shows up for the Glow in The Dark dates versus your overseas shows?
Pharrell: Well it’s funny that you call them an army ’cause that’s what we called them every night.
AllHipHop.com: Oh I know.
Pharrell: Oh, you know. I was like, Wow, that’s crazy. That army was cool, because we were recruiting. We did a lot of recruiting – we had a lot of our fans there for sure. I mean, they were buying the hell out of those t-shirts…and wearing them. The buying part wasn’t the most amazing part. It was like just to see all those N.E.R.D. graphics across everyone’s shirts while we were performing was so cool, ’cause that’s somebody who really loves you if they’re buying your t-shirt at the venue and put it on while you’re performing. That’s someone who really cares. So to see that and buildings with like 20,000, 30,000 crazy, it’s just amazing. Then there’s the festivals overseas – 30,000, 50,000, 80,000 – we played the other day. Crazy. And you just see seas of people crowd surfing, and one night there was almost six mosh pits; six! That’s a lot; one’s a lot. Six mosh pits in a sea of people…crazy. You couldn’t ask for more, and it’s just been incredible. Like I said before to see [“My Drive Thru”] live amongst the rest of our songs and generate the same respect and the same following. I mean, come on it’s been like a million.
AllHipHop.com: So the title of the album, Seeing Sounds, refers to synesthesia [ability to see sounds]. What color is N.E.R.D’s music?
Pharrell: Oh, there are many different colors depending on the sound. You know the blues are called the blues for a reason. You know Latin music is – when they say something is caliente and it’s hot, it’s ‘cause the music, the chord progressions are going into something that’s really steamy, and it really matches you know? Usually the names of a genre of music are derived from the feeling that you get from listening to it. Like Jazz is Jazz, imagine if Rock-n-Roll was called Jazz? You’d be like, huh?
AllHipHop.com: Right. That’s true.
Pharrell: Rock-n-Roll, ROCK-N-ROLL! You know or metal is heavy metal, like you get it. That’s the one thing as humans we’ve done a very good job at is naming our music genres. We’ve been very good at it, and so for us this music that we have is a mish mash hodgepodge of different sound textures and quality – quality frequencies, low end, high end, mid, spanning things. We treated this album like a scientific case study. I mean the first album we were experimenting, the second album we had already made an album so we felt like we had a decent sense of self-identity, and the third album we were like, “Well what do we like about the first two?” We were like, “Yo, the energy and the emotion,” so we made an album filled with emotion and filled of energy. That’s why the shows if you’ve noticed are way more amped than they ever were. It’s a full on work out, and n****s come there and just like leave their sweat. It’s a wonderful feeling because kids come there and sometimes we have a full 45-minute show, sometimes we have an hour and a half show. They leave and go, “Yo where have we been for the last hour and a half? I can’t believe it’s over already!” It’s because we take ‘em on such a crazy energetic ride. We’re like, “Don’t come to our shows if you don’t want your shoes to get stepped on or to catch an elbow every once in awhile to the side,” because the one beside you is gonna wild for sure; they gon’ wild. Kids have understood that, and that’s been pretty much the premise and understanding. It’s been an amazing ride and we’re here. I’m having a great time man. By the way look out for the new Common album, crazy.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I was actually gonna ask you about that.
Pharrell: You’ve heard the album or you heard the songs?
AllHipHop.com: “Announcement” is crazy.
Pharrell: You’ve heard “Announcement?”
AllHipHop.com: Yeah. You and Common sound really good together.
Pharrell: Yeah, it was an amazing process to me. We just continue to push each other, and I always wanted to make sure that the beats were like next level s**t. Some s**t you ain’t heard before, which is my thing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But that is the plight of an artist, of a true artist. If you plan to be innovative, you have to be prepared for failure and for people to be like, “What the f**k is you thinking about?” Like, “Where is your mind right now? That’s not hot!” But then when you can look at yourself and be like yeah that hurt that wasn’t right, but s**t I got 17 years of getting it right, you know what I’m saying? So, like I think that’s how you should think as an artist. You should always be willing and ready to take a chance, a calculated chance which is not really a chance, just more like a mathematic gut instinct. Mathematical.
AllHipHop.com: What is the status of the Teyana Taylor project? Rumor has it was put on hold.
Pharrell: Yeah, well Rob has been commandeering that ship. I’ve been just a supporter, because [at] the label we’re very…we go out on a limb and do different things all the time. Everything isn’t gonna work, but most things usually do. So like I said, you have to be willing to roll the dice. I did one song on there, it’s the song called, “Switch it Up,” but I like this other record that Mad Scientist did called “Swag.” That’s the record to me. With Teyana, she has her own mind, so it’s kind of like it wasn’t like me and Common or me and Jay-Z or me and Madonna or anybody because that’s more of a collaborative effort. She is strong headed and knows what she wants to do, and I didn’t want to corrupt it and get in her way. So I stood to the side and let her and Rob just sort of craft it out and do what they wanted to do. So the “Google Me” record, all those records are records she loved and she participated and created, so that wasn’t me. But I think she did a good job. She started when she was 16. She’s a talented girl. As soon as she relaunches and just regains her bearings, I think she’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with.
Pharrell: And she can honestly say, “P ain’t make this, I made it.” P just gave me an opportunity. He opened up a door for me and I did this myself” you know?
AllHipHop.com: So speaking of Madonna before, how’d you manage to make her cry?
Pharrell: We were just in a heated debate. We were in a heated session, and you know emotions just started racing and I don’t know, but it wasn’t that serious. She’s just so funny. She’s so good with press she knows what to say to get people’s attention, she’s good at it. But yeah she wasn’t like ohhh, ohhh, ohhh, it wasn’t like that.
AllHipHop.com: Now I know Lupe was on stage talking about filming the Child Rebel Soldier video and there’s a video about the video that’s leaked. This project was really kept under wraps and now the secret’s out, but why was it kept such a secret for so long?
Pharrell: Well I don’t know what you’re talking about. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Not fair, even Lupe said it.
Pharrell: What did he say?
AllHipHop.com: He said we’re filming the Child Rebel Soldier video.
Pharrell: Ohh you mean CRS. Ohhh CRS – ohh Ciara, Rihanna and Shakira.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, [laughs] that’s the project I was talking about.
Pharrell: That’s gonna be cool. CRS stands for “can’t really sing.” That was corny but it worked.
AllHipHop.com: Ok back to Seeing Sounds; before the album was released you were kind of thinking the army may just absorb it, or it may be absorbed by everybody. You think you have a good balance of that this time around?
Pharrell: Yeah, it’s been half and half. It’s been like our army, they full on took it on and [then] there are a bunch of converted folks that walk up like, “Yo I seen your show and I never heard your music before, [but] I’m a full on fan. I’m going back to buy the first two albums.” We get a lot of that. I mean from people that don’t know us and then from people who do know us and have been following us, this entire time it’s like, “Yo this your most incredible s**t yet blah blah blah.” The feedback has been incredible. I mean we did a show Projekt Revolution – HIM, The Bravery, The Used and Linkin Park. Yo, the kid from The Used was like, “That was the raddest show ever.” Then there was this other band called The Blackout and they were like, “Yo you guys totally ripped it.” Just to see other bands come up and tell us – and we’re kind of like for lack of a better term, we’re kind of like the only Black band on the bill – and they’re telling us we’re rocking the hardest like that’s some amazing s**t. I mean that doesn’t happen everyday, and we are up there giving it all we got. You don’t know if people are gonna respond to it like that, but all of a sudden you start seeing one guy push another, another guy push another, the crowd surfing ensues, there’s mosh pits all over the place, and when you tell them to say, “Hell yeah,” and you’re hearing 40,000, 50,000 people scream, “Hell yeah!” Man you gotta see “Spaz” with 80,000 people. There’s no better feeling. I’m addicted to that, I love this. I don’t know what else to say…I love it. And by the way I have to say the way that the Hip-Hop culture – the way that they’ve embraced the N.E.R.D album, the way that they’ve just shown us love like that – is amazing. You know I don’t go by stereotypes, so it’s only surprising to me because I’m happy that it’s happening, but the most unlikely looking person will roll up and be like “I f**k with that record.” You’re like, “seriously” and [they] will tell you lyrics. The craziest, craziest thug, crazy steel face grill and tells you, “Yo I f**k with that record.”
We were in Hope, Arkansas one time. I was going to Wal-Mart – we were on tour – and this little kid, he’s like a huge Lil’ Boosie fan, and he’s like walking up and down the aisle at Wal-Mart. It’s like 10 o’clock at night [and] we’re getting ready to hit the road to go to the next city or and you hear him say, “Walk it out, walk it out, walk it out.” Then he’s like, “Ohhh s**t.” He’s like 13 too cursing like that. “He’s like, “Oh s**t. ‘All the girls standing in the line for the bathroom.’” In my mind I’m like looking at this archetype right, he’s a Lil’ Boosie fan. I follow Lil Boosie, but I’m thinking for sure he don’t know that. I’m thinking he’s fiending to say, drop it like it’s hot or something like that. That kid was like, “all the girls standing…” I’m like, “Yo how you know that?” He was like, “Yo duh, you guys did it on BET.” I was like whoa and I realized we did perform on the “Rip the Runway” joint.
AllHipHop.com: It’s interesting that you mentioned Hip-Hop’s response to Seeing Sounds, because on Amazon when you look up Seeing Sounds and where it says what you should buy along with Seeing Sounds…they put you with Tha Carter III.
AllHipHop.com: Everyone knows the story with Tha Carter III breaking the million mark its first week, so do you feel it’s a testament to the success of N.E.R.D or the shift in the minds of the Hip-Hop audience to put those two together?
Pharrell: Maybe it’s a blend of both, I don’t really know. I don’t know what God plans and how he does it. I have no idea what goes into his stew when he’s concocting these incredible experiences for us. All I know is he’s incredibly kind, and I’m so blessed and fortunate. That’s all I know. I know I hate to go all philosophical and all spiritual, but it’s really amazing. I mean come on Wayne did over a million copies; we didn’t, we did 80 [thousand]. How are we being compared to something so ginormous? Wayne did ginormous numbers, and we are not genre-specific, so it’s not like we had any airplay and to still get like compared to it is great; it’s an honor. I respect what he does and what he’s done. That n***a is like the new James Brown, I mean in a sense that he’s the hardest working man in show business. I mean he is, like he works hard, he puts out so many mixtapes and he made it work. He made it count for him. It didn’t burn him out, it only kept him fresh and present so people could know and people would know and understand what was happening when his album was coming out. And he made brilliant songs, that “Lollipop” record is a brilliant pop smash and the “A Milli” s**t is retardation.
AllHipHop.com: Will we ever see a Pharrell and Justin Timberlake creative project again?
AllHipHop.com: We’re waiting.
Pharrell: Interesting. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: So how was it filming the “Everyone N.O.S.E Remix” video?
Pharrell: Crazy, crazy. Wait ’til you guys see the graphics for it, crazy. It’s fun; we had fun.
AllHipHop.com: Have you been making any more music while on the road?
Pharrell: Yeah, yeah. I have a tour bus, and it has a studio in it so when I was on tour in the states on The Glow in the Dark Tour I made a lot of s**t. I made some of Common’s album. I made some s**t for he didn’t want nobody to know ‘til the album came out, but I made some records for him. I made The One…
Pharrell: The One, the one for him. [laughs] A bunch of things, I’ve done a bunch of things there. I’ve been in Europe for over two months doing festivals, so I wasn’t able to make music there, but except for once in the actual studio but we’re going on tour in the fall because we’re going back overseas. Interesting tour in the fall, and I’ll be actually doing two albums on the road because it’s like a month in a half so two dozen tracks.
AllHipHop.com: And of course the “Can’t Really Sing” project.
Pharrell: I thank you for your time. I really really thank AllHipHop. It’s a lot of great things happening, and what you guys manage to do is bring together a broad spectrum of people who have similar interests. Namingly first and foremost Hip-Hop, which is like life and culture of what’s going on from the perspective of the kid who enjoys Hip-Hop. So it’s just real cool I mean s**t. Hats off to you guys for being such an integral staple in our culture. Also if you got any kind of art – and that’s anything from architecture to animation to music to paintings to production – we have a site that we created called Heywiregallery.com. We just created this art gallery with different floors set up like department stores like Barneys where each floor is representative of a different art form. We have people all over the world, because at one point I was like I couldn’t keep up with the amount of demos and I can’t sign everything. So I just wanted to create a place to have your stuff seen and get you visibility so it’s cool. Actually I won’t have it for long, someone else is about to get it from me. It’s a great place and it’s for a great cause.