Why is he famous?
As part of the production duo The Neptunes, Pharrell Williams has produced hit singles for some of the most renowned hip-hop and R&B artists in the world, including Usher, Nelly and Justin Timberlake. In fact, an August 2003 survey found that 43% of the songs played on U.S. Radio were produced by The Neptunes. He is also the lead singer and drummer of the rock band N*E*R*D. Though Pharrell was frequently featured on other artists’ tracks over the years, he didn’t release his own album until 2006.
Pharrell Williams was born on April 5, 1973, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. While still in grade school, Pharrell met Chad Hugo and the duo formed an R&B group with two other friends. In 1990, they were discovered at a talent contest and signed by producer Teddy Riley. Four years later, Pharrell and Chad formed The Neptunes and soon began producing hits for major hip-hop artists. The duo also created the rock band N*E*R*D with Shae Haley and released three albums. On July 25, 2006, Pharrell released his debut solo hip-hop album, In My Mind.
Q1:You’ve created distinctive sounds for so many successful hip-hop and R&B artists. Do you ever feel that you don’t get the recognition you deserve since you’re behind the scenes?
Noooo, not at all, I totally appreciate everything that I get, I’m not, like, a mainstream kind of artist, y’know what I’m sayin’? I’m, y’know, quirky, often seen as a weird guy behind the boards, and I totally appreciate my position in the system, y’know what I mean? Because I’m able to do the things I do, y’know, I made this album because I have like a… there’s like a small society of us, of individuals who just kinda do what they do, they dress how they want, they think how they want, they speak and use their own lingo, and they like all kinds of music, and y’know, it’s a society of thinkers. And so, I kinda made this album, for my fans, it’s not like, y’know, I’m not like a vast, huge, mainstream celebrity kind of guy. I’m just a person who’s fortunate enough to be able to put out an album, y’know, with N*E*R*D, whenever I want.
Q2:Did you ever imagine you’d have such a strong influence on the sound of hip-hop today?
Q3:What does an artist have to do or have to get into the studio with you?
Um, I just gotta, y’know, I gotta feel it, and I gotta feel that… I have to be inspired. Y’know, oftentimes, you can just already have a piece that you’ve already done, but usually, it’s the moment that inspires me. When you’re inspired to give somebody a record or you’re inspired to make up something on the spot.
Q4:You’ve worked with dozens of artists. Is there anyone left that you still want to collaborate with?
Um, I think Prince would be interesting, but he doesn’t need me.
Q-5:The name of your band, N*E*R*D, stands for No one Ever Really Dies. Can you explain the philosophy behind that?
Um, it means so many different things, it’s kinda like, no one ever really dies, y’know what I mean? Like, you die, it’s one thing, your body dies, but your spirit doesn’t die, it goes somewhere else.
Q-6:When you released “Frontin'” in 2003, you said that it was a one-off thing and that you were going to stick to producing. But you released a solo album. What made you change your mind about that?
My manager’s just like, “Yo, you need to do it, some people want to hear it, bla bla bla bla bla bla bla,” but y’know, the whole time, the reason why I said I wasn’t going to do it, is because I’m not a mainstream artist, y’know what I’m sayin’? And that’s when you can get mixed up, you kinda listen to the stuff and think “I’m meant to be that” when I’m not, y’know what I mean? I’m like extremely boutique, I’m a controlled, numbered edition, quality kinda person. Y’know what I’m sayin’? When it comes to, like, my gear, like Ice Cream and Billionaire Boys Club, or y’know, what I did for the sunglasses for Vuitton, I’m just kinda like, a boutique, exclusive kinda person. Now my production isn’t so exclusive because, y’know, whatever it does, when it sells, if it sells 7 million records, that’s not necessarily exclusive, y’know what I mean? But like, the mentality, the level of quality, the level of workmanship that I put into my stuff is still considered, like, boutique.
Q-7:Can you tell us a bit about your album, In My Mind?
My album is, like, seven hip-hop records and seven R&B records, and it’s just kinda like a diary excerpt, if you will. It’s just a day of the kind of things that are in my mind.
Q-8:Does that mean we can expect more solo work from you in the future?
Um… I just feel like I’m too much in the limelight, y’know? And I mean, parts of me liked it and parts of me wanted to do it, but like, in the beginning when I first started promoting it, I told everybody… [this is part of] the movement where we make our presence known as thinkers, y’know what I mean? People who like what we like and do what we do, y’know what I mean? It’s okay to like Frappuccino, y’know… and to love Gnarls Barkley, but at the same time, y’know, your girlfriend’s got a round booty, y’know what I mean? And she listens to Ciara. Right? But her little brother is, like, a black kid who skates and has f*ckin’ blue hair. And you like some of the records that your dad buys, but like, you go to see your friend, and you understand that his mom listens to Streisand, and maybe you don’t own her record, but it’s all right to be into many different kinds of things. It’s kinda like what this album’s about — it’s different.
Q-9:Who are your major musical influences?
Um… everybody, everybody. Everybody from A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder, Queen, uh… everybody. I like all kinds of music, I really do. Y’know, Jay-Z, Biggie and Nas … Nirvana, Foo Fighters… the list goes on and on and on. There’s Tower of Power, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Steely Dan… there’s just so many people. I like a lot of stuff… I like a lot of random, dope, y’know… Stereolab…
Q-10:You mentioned your clothing lines, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream. Are you involved in the designing of the clothes?
One hundred percent. Like, you definitely do your clothes season to season, and I take all my inspiration from different styles all the time, and a lot of it comes out of my brain, and a lot of it’s polished by Nigo [his partner], and sometimes Nigo’s ideas are polished by me. Like, it’s just a great, great team that we have.
Q-11:Okay, everyone wants to know: Do you really have a half-pipe in your house?
Yeah. Ramptech built it. Shout out to Ramptech… They don’t even know, but I’m about to call them, I’m building a computer shelter for kids who are y’know, less fortunate financially and come from low-income housing… I’m gonna change the world, baby.
Q-12:If you were to write your memoirs tomorrow, what would you name them?
Oh I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t like to think about stuff like that. But that’s very nice of you.
Q-13:What projects do you have coming up in the near future?
I would say definitely new Clipse, incredible albums, definitely new Snoop, new Jay-Z, new Ludacris, new Omarion, new Beyonce, new Velvet Revolver