Pharrell says Damon Albarn has ‘turned his imagination into the world’s reality.’
‘He lives a lot of his life on television — you’re bound to make a mistake,’ Tip’s King Uncaged producer says.
Animated alterna-pop group Gorillaz will crisscross North America this fall, and they’ve lined up an eclectic roster of hip-hop dogs, soul legends and indie upstarts for their upcoming trek, including De La Soul, Bobby Womack and Little Dragon. Also hitting the road with the “Stylo” crew are fellow genre-melding outfit N*E*R*D, who will open up for Gorillaz starting October 3. Gorillaz are known for staging elaborate technologically enhanced sets designed to blow concertgoers’ minds while sidestepping the fact that the group’s cartoon bandmembers are, well, just pretend.
N*E*R*D frontman Pharrell Williams told MTV News that he’s amped for the outing and respects the way Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn has turned a collective of surly, slightly batty, animated personas into a musical force. “I’m happy to go on tour with the Gorillaz. I think Damon is a genius,” Pharrell said. “I love the way that he has exercised his mind and turned his imagination into the world’s reality.” In a lineup packed with diverse voices, Pharrell said Gorillaz architects Albarn and Jamie Hewlett invited N*E*R*D on the road because they share similar approaches to creating music. “We aspire to continue to offer our perspective to the world in the way that we do, and I think that’s the reason why they asked us to be on the road,” Pharrell explained.
“It’s like there’s like-mindedness and the appreciation for good music and the stimulation of a child’s imagination, so I feel like it was a natural marriage.” After a botched Grammy appearance involving Madonna, Gorillaz are leaving the holographic elements of their stage show behind. They explained earlier this year that their upcoming performances will be similar to the gigs they ripped in the U.K. and at this year’s Coachella Festival — hopefully featuring special guests who couldn’t make previous shows due to Europe’s volcanic ash drama. “[It’ll be] the same show, maybe some different songs in the set, some of the other collaborators who will be able to make it,” Hewlett told MTV News in April. “We lost loads of people to the volcano — we didn’t lose them; they couldn’t get on their flight. We were missing Kano and Bashy; Mos Def was in London; The Hypnotic Brass couldn’t get there.”
Back when T. I. was still a fledging MC crafting his 2001 Arista Records debut, I’m Serious, he teamed up with superproducer Pharrell Williams, of the hitmaking production outfit The Neptunes, for the album’s title track. Six albums, a label move and nearly a decade later, T. I. has become a hit factory unto himself, but he has also extended his already robust rap sheet. He hooked up with Pharrell once again for his forthcoming album, King Uncaged, but his recent legal issues have steered the focus away from his hard-hitting music. When MTV News caught up with Pharrell, the producer who worked with Tip on his first mainstream offering and “talks to him every day,” he insisted the ATL king can still rule the game.
“He got the heart of a champion,” Pharrell told MTV News on Thursday (September 23). “Whatever happens, Tip gonna be fine, regardless. He got a good heart, and at the end of the day, he’s a human being.” The producer cautioned fans against rushing to judgment, saying, “Let he who’s perfect cast the first stone.” “He lives a lot of his life on television — you’re bound to make a mistake,” Pharrell continued, referencing T. I.’s recent arrest on drug possession charges. “If that’s what happened. We don’t know what’s going on right now. All we know is the fingers are being pointed, and I’mma stand by his side ’cause he’s a good guy.” Pharrell pointed to Tip’s work with young people as one of the MC’s redeeming qualities.
“What you can’t do is take away any of the good stuff that he’s done for this world and done for the kids and his community,” he said. “Sorry, you can’t take that away. It’s already done.” Tip’s legacy of chart-topping club bangers and fiery lyricism can’t be denied either, and it appears that he refuses to slack off in the hits department, as Pharrell enthused, “the [new] album is crazy.” The producer also spoke candidly about the delicate balance an artist like T. I. has to maintain in order to keep the fans happy, stack sales and maintain his artistic integrity. “He’s got songs out there right now that are singles, but, you know, there are pressures in the world, certain things you can’t necessarily control.
But his body of work … he’s got a crazy album,” Pharrell said. “I saw, like, 60 records, and almost every record that he played me was really incredible. Then there was the more poppier side of things, where the label kinda puts the gun to your head ’cause they gotta pay their bills.” Although T. I. may have to relent to certain label demands with some radio-friendly jams, Pharrell said Uncaged will unleash the energy of their early collaborations together. “Please trust, T. I.’s album is incredible, and he’s an amazing talent, and it’s been a while since we got together,” he said, adding that in addition to his work on I’m Serious, he also hooked up with Tip for the track “Freak Though,” from 2004’s Urban Legend. “It’s been a minute since then, and we really went in for old times’ sake, so, it’s pretty crazy.”