Two weeks after the exclusive one-time-only playback of his latest track, “100 Years“, a time-locked tribute to ‘pseudoscientists’ wrecking the ecosystem, Pharrell discusses global warming, the US administration and the reason why he doesn’t want to do ‘anything for pure aesthetics any more’ Earlier this month, GQ.co.uk sat down with Pharrell Williams to discuss the imminent launch – and immediate deletion of – a new song: “100 Years”. Written to raise awareness of climate change, Williams’ latest quasi-release was commissioned by luxury cognac brand Louis XIII, itself a potential victim of rising ocean levels, and therefore the reason it’s chosen to cellar the one-off recording in a water-permeable safe, where it will remain until 2117.
“But,” as Ludovic du Plessis, global executive director of Louis XIII reminded us, “only if we care.” Williams cares. In a wide-ranging discussion ahead of the song’s auspicious once-only playback, the singer/writer/producer/apparel designer engaged with the big topics of the day, offering a rare glimpse of hope in what he otherwise considers might be a “dark f***ing future”…
‘These days there’s a lot of displaced anger out in the streets’
I agreed to do this collaboration on the song “100 Years” with Louis XIII because I thought that it was super-admirable that it was interested in the preservation of this planet, and the idea that I get to air out my grievances to the pessimists excited me, because I get a chance to properly channel it. You see a lot of displaced anger that isn’t properly channelled. You see people marching. And I’m not talking about positive protestors, I’m thinking of the nationalists and the people who don’t really believe in science. And I believe if you channel it in the right way there could be some education and you could be enlightened. But if you’re just out in the street, acting belligerent and professing superiority, that’s… a dark f***ing future for me, personally.
‘My father was from a generation that got chased’
His views are not like they used to be, but his mind and his spirit were conditioned to think and feel that way because of the way he was treated and things that he saw as a little boy. And I’m from the generation that started to see the real true change. But when you look at what’s gone on the last year and you look at the supremacy being so pronounced, and you look at the choices that we had and you look at the way the public reacted to it, how some people got quiet, looked the other way, and how others only pay attention to the small percentage of the things they care about, but they turn a blind eye to the other things that they know they disagree with because they don’t feel like it directly affects them, that’s like,
‘Turn me all the way up.’
‘You don’t have to be a role model, but you have to do your part’
When you have elected officials and people in positions of power whose decisions can affect the next five, ten, 20 years, you have to pay attention to that. You can’t turn a blind eye and say that doesn’t affect me. It’s not about tax brackets, it’s about the human species and what they will be subjected to in the future because of the decisions that are being made today. You don’t have to be a role model, but you have to do your part. You don’t have to be the face of it, but you have to pitch in. And whatever way you can educate people you should. A lot of the followers there don’t read a lot, they go on to websites that tell them that Tupac and Michael Jackson and Jesus play craps every morning and they believe it. People in my country don’t really read the fine print.
‘I don’t want to do anything for pure aesthetics any more’
I’m not super vocal about it, but I’m activated. And I’m in it. And we’re fighting the fight in our music, in our apparel, in our shoes, in our design. Anything that I’m making, you should know there is some enlightening DNA in it – I don’t want to do anything for pure aesthetics any more. Not only is it a waste of a tangible material good, but it’s like a sin when there are so many people who need that enlightening.
‘What works in nature should work in politics’
The truth is universal, so what works in nature should work in politics. But in this instance, when we tell ourselves or our children to slow down, I’m not sure that’s going to happen. It’s seven-plus billion people on the planet. It’s going to accelerate at a rapid speed. And if you look at the rate technology is expanding and accelerating, you can’t even possibly push yourself to ask a population of people to slow something down. You just have to hope that they are more vigilant and more self-aware; that they are doing all they can do to contribute to reducing their carbon footprint and you’re going to have to be pleased with that. Not everybody is going to be buying a hybrid car even when they can afford one. Because we are living in an era of me and now.
‘The world is not customisable like your cell phone’
If you think about it, you spend so much time on this device and everything is customised to your liking. Your whole life is in this thing, and the side effect is, when you are operating in the real world it is like road rage. You want to kill everyone because they didn’t do what you thought they should have done. But the rest of the world is not customisable like your cell phone. Life has no General Settings app. But because the way these phones are geared to the way we operate, we start to look at life like everything can be customised and it just can’t. You can’t dim the sunlight. The only thing you can do is hope that we’re being self-aware and we’re encouraging people around us to be self-aware of what we do and how that contributes or how that takes away from life.
The current incumbent of the White House is ‘the best troller of all time’
Ten years ago, I never would have thought that our leaders would be our leaders. We were complaining back then – I’d written “Lapdance” about Bush way, way back – I just… I just didn’t see this one coming. But in ’15 we knew it was going to be him. Everybody thought we were crazy, but we were saying, this guy could win. Because he had a team who understood the internet. Let’s face it, he’s the best troller of all time. He’ll come up with an explanation for what’s about to happen and his followers just blindly believe anything.
‘I feel bad for all the conservatives’
Because, really, is this what you’re all about? It’s one thing to be conservative, a Republican, but you’re really into all this all-white s**t?! But I love it that all [their] kids do all the black dances. I love it that they love our music, they love our clothes; they love, love love it!
‘That’s why I’m so excited about the millennial generation’
And I’m excited about what women can do. I’ve not got anything against men, but there are a group of men who are just f***ing things up, terribly, at a rocket, lightning-speed trajectory. But I really think the old folks who made these poor decisions… how much longer will they be there, right? We are starting to see signs of the population starting to respond to a lot of the poor decisions that have been made in the last year, and there is going to be a domino effect that will lead all the way to 2117. I feel like we will be in a much better place, but you just never know…