DOPE Magazine: Lets first talk about your set tonight. What does N.E.R.D have in store for Las Vegas at Life Is Beautiful?
Chad Hugo: Life Is Beautiful because life isbeautiful. When we get on stage, it’s like theater. We’re like a theater production. We’ve got dancers, a huge LED screen, a band, Pharrell, Shae, and I just wildin’ out playing our songs. Some stuff from our old albums, some stuff from our current album, “No One Ever Really Dies.” We’re just so excited to be here.
You mentioned Pharrell and Shae. N*E*R*D has been together for a lot longer than people think. You guys all grew up together, right?
I used to have a studio [above] a garage and people would bring over samples and stuff. We used just make music. Pharrell and I were in like a gifted and talented program and we just got together and started making music together. Kinda like our own little art school, except we weren’t enrolled in art school. We were always just striving to be on the radio in Virginia Beach.
Il a formé avec Pharrell Williams l’un des meilleurs groupes de l’histoire, il a produit des hits à n’en plus finir et adore… Ariana Grande
Voici le TRACK ID avec la LÉGENDE de N*E*R*D : Chad Hugo croisé au Paris Summer Jam 🔥 pic.twitter.com/yMZmo5b3Rg
— Konbini France (@KonbiniFr) September 3, 2018
Chad Hugo is a musician first. He’s become famous for not wanting to be famous, preferring to let superstar friends such as longtime musical partner Pharrell Williams, or Jay-Z or Justin Timberlake, stand in the spotlight, while he stayed in the studio fine-tuning their tracks. Through a career as a producer, as well as member of his own band N*E*R*D. Hugo has always focused on always keeping his records vital and fresh. For years he did this using the same digital toolbox everyone used until he realized what was missing was the soulful authority achieved only when real musicians play in real time.
The dimension of human artistry real musicians can bring to a track is undeniable and can’t be attained in any other way. Grammy.com spoke to Hugo about that revelation, and other ideas which have informed his remarkable career. His story starts in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where music first enlivened his world. He was only 12 when he met Williams in the school marching band. They both were drummers, but Hugo was the Drum Major, the leader of the band, while his friend was behind him in the drumline. In time, as the world knows, Williams happily stepped into the frontman role as Hugo held it down in the back.
Thanks to Eve for providing me with a copy of the Magazine! Pharrell Williams is the fourth face of Clash Magazine Issue 108. The fourth and final cover star of Clash 108 is Pharrell, a man who’s long been so resolutely original in all areas of his artistic endeavours that he’s earned the privilege to manifest his own destiny, and does so in thrillingly successful ways. One of the most influential creative minds of our generation, Pharrell Williams has transcended his position as one-half of music’s hottest production duo The Neptunes and one-third of the genre-defying band N*E*R*D to become an inspirational renaissance man whose golden touch is in demand throughout the realms of music, fashion, film, and beyond.
With a new Solo Collaboration album on the horizon, Pharrell shares his thoughts on creative practice and the curiosity that’s kept him at the forefront of art for three decades. “Creativity for me is a means of expression,” he tells Clash. “It’s a gift from the all that is, all that was, and all that ever will be; the creator. We’re co-creators. So the gift of creation is amazing, and something as simple as a conversation is your own creation – you use those words with your tone.” Pharrell completes an iconic issue that also includes Billie Eilish, Anderon.Paak, Troye Sivan, The Spice Girls, Kris Wu, Buddy, Gaika, Bad Gyal, Yungen, Ravyn Lenae, Peter Buck, and much more.
Chad Hugo doesn’t do many interviews. He’ll turn up every couple of years, seemingly just to say hello and share what he’s been up to. Usually, it’s making music. Interviews, when they do arrive, often reaffirm Hugo’s dedication to his craft and disinterest in gossip. Hugo is well past the point of needing to boost his profile—but even early on, when The Neptunes and N*E*R*D were fresh voices rather than archetypes, Hugo demurred when the spotlight turned his way. Now that he’s one of music’s luminaries, the taciturn personality has, somewhat accidentally, enveloped Chad Hugo in an air of mystery.
That was certainly true for this interview—but after two false starts, we set a date and time. When Hugo appears in the lobby of a pristine new hotel abutting Brooklyn Bridge Park, he offers an apple. “This is for you,” he says, eyes still adjusting to the lobby’s morning light. Just a few hours earlier Hugo had been DJing a club night alongside Daniel Biltmore, the other half of his MSSLCMMND project. Their set hadn’t ended until 4 a.m., and Hugo had woke up hoarse—a rough break for someone who’s already softspoken. “Sorry if my voice is gone.”
Chad Hugo is the antithesis of how one would expect a world-renowned producer to act. Despite being one-half of one of the most lauded music production duos of all time, The Neptunes, the Virginia Beach native’s muted demeanor is a stark contrast to the notoriously gritty music scene. Evident by his decades-long career as a beat maker, he truly comes alive through creating sounds that have been loved the world over.
Hugo, who strolls into VIBE HQ on Friday, Jun. 1 with an assortment of costume changes and a subtle smile, is famously modest; you won’t catch him around press as often as his creative counterpart, Pharrell Williams. However, with a deejaying set later that night at Lot 45 in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, a then-upcoming weekend performance at Governor’s Ball at Randall’s Island and some new music of his own in the works, there was more than enough for him to talk about this time around.
It’s been a busy few months for Pharrell Williams. Not long after starring in Adidas’ World Cup ad, collaborating with Camila Cabello, and announcing his foray into gastronomy, he’s now the subject of a comprehensive editorial in Vogue Italia. Touching on a myriad of topics including the meaning behind N*E*R*D’s “Lapdance” to his relationship with Karl Lagerfeld, the interview provides insight into William’s varied career, and how he views it. Here are the best bits.
On the meaning behind N.E.R.D’s “Lapdance”
“Most people don’t realize but our first single, Lapdance, was about the Bush administration; about how we felt politicians were more like dancers than they were politicians – they dance around the point.”
On how he’s giving back to Virginia Beach, the community he grew up in.
“One of the projects I’m dealing with now is building soundstages for film studios to come and work in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where I’m from – I gotta give back … The soundstages are priority for me. I know the kind of jobs they will create; the kind of economic trajectory it can have on my city and the neighboring ones.”
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