Responsible for crafting top ten hits for many of today’s artists, Pharrell Williams has redefined pop music over the course of the last decade. In 2009, alongside production partner, Chad Hugo, Williams (who together are the duo known as The Neptunes) was ranked number one among Billboard’s producers of the decade. Williams‘ consistent track record of smash hits was just one of the topics discussed in HuffPost Black Voices latest episode of “The Tanning Effect.” The “Rump Shaker” producer opened up on trying to convince Michael Jackson’s manager to use a selection of beats tailored specifically for the “King Of Pop.” According to Williams, the late singer preferred a sound similar to the producer’s 1998 hit Noreaga song, “Superthug.” “I have been telling him, ‘Yo, I got these Michael records [that I did for Michael].’ And I’ll never forget Michael’s manager saying, ‘Yo, Michael wants some “Superthug!”‘And I was like, ‘What?'” the producer-singer recalled.
“I remember being so baffled and so crushed, ’cause he still is my idol.” When the initial tracks produced for Jackson were scrapped, Williams sought out Justin Timberlake, who was working with The Neptunes on his debut album, Justified. The songs went on to commercial success, not to mention eliciting a phone call from Jackson. “Funny story is, when we were working on it, Michael called … he just called me and he was eating popcorn in my ear [over the phone] and he was like, ‘Oh, so you’re working with Justin, how’s it going?’ And you know, it was Michael’s voice…it wasn’t the high pitched [voice] that everyone else knew. And he’s just eating the popcorn or whatever. And I remember just thinking to myself, ‘Man, I wish Michael could hear these songs,'” he said (see video 2, 3:00). “And later on, after those songs came out and they were really huge thanks to Justin’s talent and what he had to offer, I’ll never forget the day that me and Michael met up. And he sang me those songs, sounding like Justin. And he said, ‘You should’ve gave those songs to me.'”
Helming most of Timberlake’s 2002 solo debut was only part of The Neptunes‘ early commercial success, as they also landed their first global number one hit with Britney Spears‘ “I‘m A Slave 4 U.” A 2003 survey that showed that 20 percent of the songs played on British radio — and a staggering 43 percent of songs in the U.S. — were written or produced by Williams and Hugo. For Williams, the accomplishment was a bit weird and inspired him to do different things. “I didn’t realize it until I was looking at culture and saying to myself, ‘This is weird,’ because you start to see it,” he admitted. “It freaked me out … and Kanye asked me, ‘Yo, you don’t want this?’ And I was kind of like, ‘Nah, man.’ And I remember thinking to myself that I need to go do some other things, because I don’t feel like people want to move on from this.” He added, “I’m a southern boy, so you know at the end of the day, humility is everything. And I think credit is to be given, not to be taken. But at the same time, sometimes I need to be told and reminded.” Check out parts one, two and three of the interview above.