Let’s talk about “Alright” for a second. It has become our generation’s protest song.
When you wrote it, did you have that in mind? Did you think of it as a protest song?
No. You know what? I was sitting on that record for about six months. The beat’s Pharrell. And between my guy Sam Taylor and Pharrell, they would always be like, Did you do it? When you gonna do it? I knew it was a great record—I just was trying to find the space to approach it. I mean, the beat sounds fun, but there’s something else inside of them chords that Pharrell put down that feels like—it can be more of a statement rather than a tune. So with Pharrell and Sam asking me—Am I gonna rock on it? When I’m gonna rock on it?—it put the pressure on me to challenge myself. To actually think and focus on something that could be a staple in hip-hop. And eventually, I came across it. Eventually, I found the right words. You know, it was a lot going on, and still, to this day, it’s a lot going on. And I wanted to approach it as more uplifting—but aggressive. Not playing the victim, but still having that We strong, you know?
By Zach Baron, Photograph by Paola Kudacki. For GQ’s April cover, the G I R L artist and producer talks to Zach Baron about politics (he’s calling 2016 for Hillary), the Tea Party, the hat-collection clamoring, and losing the Best Song Oscar. Miami, early March: The sun is bright overhead—no winter here—and Pharrell Williams is driving his Rolls-Royce Phantom through South Beach, a pharaoh at the wheel of a spaceship.
Today’s buffalo hat is midnight blue. G I R L, his second solo record, is number two in the country, behind Rick Ross’s Mastermind, a situation Pharrell can live with, even be proud of. “I’m cool,” he says. “It’s, like, number one in seventy countries.” Anyway, he says, Rick Ross is a friend. He lives here in Miami too. He makes a right turn, and with no prompt starts discoursing about a gym he’s invested in, over in Coral Gables. It is, or will be, a place for women—a sanctuary where “they can find their inner beauty and find their inner challenging spirit and find their bravery, all by dancing, and then at the same time getting fit.”
It is breathtaking to hear Pharrell talk when he’s in visionary mode. He’s describing the dance classes at this gym, setting a scene for me: “You’re going to stand around, and you’re going to see loads and loads of women doing, you know, trap dances and squatting low…” His wife Helen, sitting in the backseat with me, gently points out to Pharrell that he is driving on the left side of a two-way street. It is breathtaking to watch Pharrell drive, too, in an are we going to live?? kind of way. He swerves back onto the right side of the road, then takes an abrupt left in front of an oncoming taxi. People honk ecstatically when they see him at the wheel. They’re not even mad.
Back in January, while wearing a similarly improbable and now-notorious hat, he won four Grammys, including one for Producer of the Year; next he went to the Oscars, to perform “Happy,” the number-one song in the country then and now, and just lost out on an Academy Award to Frozen’s “Let It Go”—more on that in a second. After twenty years of making hits for other people, of being “the guy next to the guy,” he’s finally become the guy himself.
The hits come with his name on them now. He is ubiquitous—there he is, gamely parrying Amy Adams’s haunting snake-dance in GIF form, or on the radio, engaged in a breathless Michael Jackson-off with Justin Timberlake. He may well be the most beloved man in the country at the moment. He and I have been talking at various points all winter, in Los Angeles and now here in Miami, where the producer-turned-artist has still more to say: about losing that Oscar, Hillary Clinton’s chances at the presidency, FOX’s Cosmos—”I wanted to be a part of it so bad, but I didn’t know Seth MacFarlane,” he says, ruefully—and beyond. Below are excerpts from those conversations.
GQ: Originally G I R L was going to come out in May. Why did you end up moving up the release to March 3?
Because Columbia just was like, “You’re almost done with it; you’re doing the Oscars. There’s almost a billion people watching: Why not give it to them then?” I was like, “Alright, cool.”
You were nominated for an Oscar that night, but didn’t win. How badly did you want it?
Well, trust me: when they read the results, my face was…frozen. But then I thought about it, and I just decided just to…let it go.
A lot of dope tracks and hits were put out in 2013, and many of them had one common denominator, which was Pharrell Williams. The producer, singer, songwriter, and creative genius was behind of this years biggest hits including “Blurred Lines”, “Get Lucky”, and many more; those two just being the biggest hits of the year.
Pharrell has been known as a maker, but this year, he gets the honor of ‘Hitmaker Of The Year 2013’ by the good folks over at GQ. He recently chopped it up a bit with the folks over at GQ magazine, which you can check below. Congrats to Pharrell for definitely deserving the credit, thanks for all the wonderful music! Thanks to Melissa and Creatrice.
Pharrell & Co. Attend GQ ‘Men Of The Year’ Party, Hints More Miley Madness Coming, ‘You’ll See’
Posted: November 14th
Following events in London with Robin Thicke and New York with Justin Timberlake, GQ celebrated its “Men of the Year” issue with another star-studded bash in L.A. on Tuesday night. Music and Hollywood’s biggest stars toasted this year’s “Men Of The Year” including Timberlake, Kendrick Lamar, and Pharrell. The “Get Lucky” hitmaker brought his wife Helen Lasichanh and mingled with fellow honorees Matthew McConaughey, Will Ferrell, and Andy Samberg.
On the red carpet, Pharrell was asked what makes a perfect gentleman. “Honesty, being kind, being thoughtful, just in terms of being considerate,” said the super-producer, who has a four-year-old son named Rocket. “And trusting of gut, instinct is very important.” Kid Cudi looked dapper in a Tom Ford tux, while Trey Songz played a game of pool with his date, model and actress Tanaya Henry. Other attendees included The RZA, Raphael Saadiq, Aziz Ansari, and Sia.
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