“This world is going to eat itself,” says No Malice with a straight face during a recent press run in New York City. He’s referring to the turmoil in world that is projected on every smartphone, laptop and TV screen these days. It’s the Virginia poet’s second go around on his own, well not completely solo, he credits a small circle of folks with similar beliefs (his Reinvision squad), and of course, God, as his “new team.” No major record label or yes men — just a man and his words.
“I don’t be trying to fish for old listeners,” says the loving father/rapper about his new material. “I’m true to myself and true to how I feel. Producers Profound Sounds out of Virginia really helped me go places I felt I’ve never been before [musically]. They made me reach in different pockets.”
“I can only write about the things I’ve seen, and the things I’ve been through,” describes BIA about her sometimes hardcore music. It’s not uncommon to find this pretty face spitting rhymes about perico, dumping on her adversaries and the struggles she faced as a bi-racial teen (she is of Puerto Rican and Italian descent). The twenty-something year old has been patiently waiting for her time to shine ever since she caught the ear of Pharrell several years ago.
Introduced to Skateboard P by longtime Star Trak member Fam-Lay, the deadly emcee has grown from a hungry rapper with little direction to one of the names on must watch rapper lists from numerous music outlets. Having called everywhere from New York City, Boston and Miami home, Bia is readying two major projects that reflect her diverse living experiences. “I have a debut album that I’m working on, but then I also have another project — it’s called Trap Vogue,” says BIA about her upcoming releases.
“That will probably go first all original beats with trap elements and new sounds.” Producer Cardo Got Wings — who also produced “Gucci Comin Home” — has already contributed beats for Trap Vogue. BIA says she prefers to build songs from scratch with the producer in the studio with her. The rapstress also reveals that she’s at her most creative early in the morning, so it’s likely you’ll find her up at 6:00 AM penning tracks in the crib.
When it comes to family matters, Gene “No Malice” and Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton would rather keep their silence than discuss brotherly business with the public. As rap duo the Clipse, the Virginia-bred MCs pushed and pulled their way into the industry, thanks in part to childhood friends Pharrell and Chad Hugo. In 2002, the Brothers Thornton broke through to the mainstream with their cross over hit, “Grindin‘,” from their debut album, Lord Willin‘. It made it to top 40 radio stations despite the fact that the Neptunes sparse drums and snares were polluted with their unapologetic rhymes of big time dealin’ in V.A. Over the next seven years, the Clipse would go on to release two more group albums and a number of mixtapes as their larger entity the Re-Up Gang, which also featured Philly rappers Sandman and Ab Liva.
After years of dealing with documented issues with record label restructuring and life-changing arrests of their childhood friends, the group known for their thought-provoking metaphors about street life are now in two completely different places in their lives. Pusha T is enjoying rising solo success under the direction of Kanye West, while No Malice (formerly known as Malice) has found solace in God. As a devout born-again Christian, husband and father of two, No Malice is on a new journey to share his own story and word of God. For the first time in years, Pusha T and No Malice speak side by side on the future of the Clipse.
VIBE: I know there was some hesitation from you guys to do a Clipse cover, but the people needed to see this.
No Malice: I thought it was a great idea from the beginning. I think it ends a lot of the rumors that have been going around. A lot of people might have thought there was some kind of dysfunction between Pusha and myself, which has never been the case. I know the fans wanted to see us together publicly over the past couple of years, but we still work together.
As the reviews for Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories (out on Columbia Records, May 21) start pouring out web-wide like bees from a busted hive, VIBE ‘got lucky’ with Pharrell Williams. The singer-rapper is a key cohort alongside The Robots in their forthcoming magnum opus, who poignantly discusses the meaning of Daft Punk’s music in the roll-out series, The Collaborators. “It represents freedom for all people,” said Williams. But does “it” include today’s American umbrella genre, ‘EDM‘? “There’s definitely some good EDM DJs and producers out there, but its just one night,” Williams tells VIBE, referring to the hyperactive pace of new EDM wannabes and fakes.
“I think for them [Daft Punk] and for me it just became too corporate. When the corporations get involved, they tend to have you go so commercial that you sort of lost what got you there in the first place.” The Daft Punk/Pharrell alliance first saw life when they, along with Lenny Kravitz and D’Angelo were all signed to Virgin. “That was like a different day,” Pharrell waxes poetic, adding, “the most eclectic, incredible label ran by Nancy and Ken Berry had this president, Ashley Newton. I just think it’s so curiously interesting that 10, 15 years later, Ashley is over at Columbia and he signed Daft Punk.” Those were the days – as the adage goes and as Pharrell explains it, “When we were in that creative world.”
Diversity of the sounds were accepted and celebrated in the space he’s describing. “The Gorillaz were there too, Williams adds. “I met them at a time when our record company was like a frat house. Everyone celebrated their differences, the differences were the things that made them rare and gave them their value and it was just awesome.” However, instead playing beer pong, this frat was thirsting for a different kind of carousing. “It was like going to the school of Xavier from X-Men,” he muses. “But those kids realized they had superpowers. They just didn’t know how to use them and thought they were weird because they were mutants amongst the rest of the kids. That’s how I felt when I got there.”
From those early days to now, Williams admits the journey has “been crazy.” When Daft Punk arrived from France to the States with their crossover album Homework, “there was a [dance music] scene, but it wasn’t what their music made it be [what it is today]. All of a sudden you just hear the rest of the world copying their sounds and variations of their inspiration that they left for people over the last 10 years.” Pharrell Williams needs to create, organically, as does Daft Punk, even if they are robots. EDM fads have nothing to do with their mission. “It’s like when the corporations try to cash in on it [EDM], they kill it a little bit, and these guys [Daft Punk] are like ‘man we need to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is invent.’” And now, mutants, enjoy the dance music with over 75 million views, “Get Lucky” AGAIN ONE MORE TIME…
By Adelle Platon. Pharrell is making a special delivery. In a new collaboration with Los Angeles-base subscription service Quarterly Co., Skateboard P has been recruited alongside several tastemakers to ship a package filled with hand-picked goodies to their enthusiasts. Here, he keeps a tight lip on the contents but offers up his inquisitive thoughts on space travel, being named a VIBE genius and a gift he received from Daft Punk.
VIBE: So what can subscribers expect inside of a Pharrell package?
Well, I can’t tell you exactly what’s in there, but I think that more so than anything else I just love and appreciate the opportunity to give my supporters a package quarterly, pun intended, so that they can get to know [me] better and they get what we want them to have as well.
If a package was curated for you with items from the past, present and future with no price tag, what five items would you want?
Well if I told you that then I’d be telling you what I put in there. (laughs) The whole thing is to leave it open for them. When they get it, they’re excited and know that we really care about them and that’s me and my team because it’s not just me. I love my fans. I never want to cheat them, use them or barter them when it comes to other brands coming to me for endorsements. I don’t walk in leveraging my demographic although that’s what they’ll think. I just purposely don’t do that. If I like a product, then I’ll endorse a product but I’ll never drag my supporters that made me and have been feeding me and my family for years. Quarterly is what that’s for.
Here is finally the official Instrumental to No Doubt’s 2002’s single ‘Hella Good’ that went Number One on the US Hot Dance Charts back in April 13th , a big thanks to forum member CMP, and make sure to check out this No Doubt interview by the Vibe magazine where No Doubt talk about working with The Neptunes posted in 2002.
“I think we learned loads from all these different, amazingly talented people,” Stefani says. No Doubt immediately applied some of what they learned in the recording booth. For years, they had created their songs by jamming in the garage with a tape recorder and then handing the cassette to a producer. Now they began to record themselves on Pro Tools and put some of the raw material on the final CD. “We did more on these songs than we’ve ever done, ’cause the preproduction stuff was actually used,” says Stefani. Kanal agrees: “Using the computer to record was a cool way to keep all the original ideas intact.” Working with The Neptunes was an especially enticing prospect. “The idea was to see what would happen,” says Stefani.
“It was two different worlds that mutually respect each other coming together to do something new and fresh.” Unfortunately, their ideas didn’t quite gel in the studio. “Working with The Neptunes was really hard and awkward,” she admits. The producers were more accustomed to simply laying down a track for a solo artist to rap or sing over, rather than working with a band. And No Doubt felt intimidated because they rarely wrote songs with people outside the group. “Songwriting is such an intimate thing, and with people you don’t normally write with, you’re naked,” says Kanal. Even the extroverted Stefani was nervous. “Like, yeah, let me sing a little thing off the top of my head for you. Ooooh, it’s horrible!” she says.
According to The Neptunes‘ Chad “Chase” Hugo, “They weren’t used to our methods, so it was strange at first. But it was all good.” The fruit of No Doubt’s uneasy pairing with The Neptunes was “Hella Good,” a track that still needed tweaking after they finished. “We knew it wasn’t quite right, but we weren’t sure how to make the song work,” says drummer Adrian Young, 32. Nelle Hooper patched it up with them in London. “He’s the one who got exited about it,” says Young. “He had the idea of coming up with this overdriven synthesizer riff. He brought excitement and fun to it.” “Hella Good” did eventually make it on the album.”
Out Of This World: The Neptunes
The Neptunes might have the most diverse résumé of any production team in history. Who else cranks out remixes and hits for R&B singers like Kelis, hip hop artists like Jay-Z, rockers like Limp Bizkit, and unclassifiable geniuses like Prince? Teddy Riley discovered The Neptunes in 1992 after they performed in a talent show at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, VA. At the time, Pharrell Williams was playing drums and rapping while his partner, Chad ‘Chase’ Hugo, played keyboards. The two began producing tracks for Blackstreet’s debut album and haven’t had much downtime since. Upcoming projects include work on Jennifer Lopez’s next CD and a solo project for Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against The Machine. “We’re doing a lot more rock now,” says Williams. “Lenny [Krawitz] is interested, so that’s where my head is right now.”
The Neptunes Unforgetable Collaborations:
Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Got Your Money feat. Kelis (1999)
Hugo: “When he wrote the first verse, it took him a while to write. We had the beat rolling for a long time. The next thing you know, he was like ‘Okay! I wanna do vocals,’ And he rushed the engineer and the sound guy to get the tape ready. They rolled the tape and he said the first line, and that was it. The he said, ‘Stop the tape.’ He was revved up to get the track done, and then he just stopped. He ended up finishing it later, but it was cool because he vibes on his instinct. You always hear about him in the news, and that’s how he works too-spontaneously.”
Jay-Z – I Just Wanna Love U (Give It To Me) feat. Pharrell(2000)
Hugo: “Jay called and we flew out to New York and made the beat.”
Williams: “I wanted the track to reflect attention on old soul music and where it came from. I was thinking of Curtis Mayfield. Jay-Z liked it and laid the vocals right there. It happened real quick, and Jay laced it crazy. He’s one of those artists who just keeps on progressing.”
Mystikal – Shake Ya Ass feat. Pharrell (2000)
Hugo: “We met Mystikal in L.A. and did a song together for the Any Given Sunday soundtrack. He was feeling us and he wanted to work with us again.
Williams: “On this song, I was singing the chorus like Eddie Kendricks from The Temptations. If you like Mystikal, get some old Temptations records; hear what inspired me.”
Sade – By Your Side (The Neptunes Remix) (2000)
Hugo: “They gave us the original song for that and wanted us to do the music, but it was, like, 76 beats per minute, so we ended up speeding up the track a lot and gave it a whole different vibe. Originally, it sounded like some Aaron Neville country song, but when you hear it now it’s on some funky jazz vibe.”
Guru – All I Said feat. Pharrell & Macy Gray (2000)
Hugo: “Guru was doing Jazzmatazz record and wanted someone to sing on the track we presented. So we got Macy, with her trademark voice, and she came on and blessed it. She’s very talented. Some people judge her by her squeaked-out voice, but I think she’s real creative and vibed out. She really made that song crazy.”
Kelis – I Don’t Care Anymore feat. Pharrell (2001)
Williams: “She gets it . All we had to do was rearrange the original Phil Colins song, and she came in and did her thing, looking cute. She came prepared but didn’t even know what she was gonna hear. It was cool.”
504 Boyz – D-Game feat. Pharrell & Terrar (aka Pusha T.) (2000)
Williams: “We were out in L.A. doing a remix for Prince at the Record Plant, and originally had Q-Tip on the track. Master P was at the pool table talking shit to one of my boys. He was saying he was good, but we doubleteamed him and beat him that game. I said, “Why I never got a beat on you?” And he told me, “I got my boys to do my own shit.” Then he came in the room, listened to a beat I had, and he liked it. We just did it right then on the spot!”
Perry Farrell – Glory (2000)
Hugo: “Rock people are different. He’s clean now, but he told us stories about being in Jane’s Addiction when he was wacked out, standing in the middle of the street, tripping out with the guy who invented LSD. When we were in the studio, he brought in his little Roland Groovebox and he was freaking that thing! He’s from rock ‘n’ roll and there he was making techno tracks in the middle of our rock-hip hop session.”
Vibe Magazine issued a statement today in response to Robin Thicke’s controversial interview last week, an interview in which the singer says he was denied the cover because he was white. In response to Thicke’s claim, the magazine says: “We have a great deal of respect for Robin Thicke and his music, and we remain flattered by his desire to be on a VIBE Cover. A VIBE cover is a huge milestone in any artist’s career—recent cover stars include Young Jeezy, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, Usher, Senator Barack Obama, Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, and Robert De Niro, to say nothing of our 15-year history.
We wish Thicke the best, and we’re glad he discusses his thoughts on race and R&B in the new October 2008 issue of VIBE.” Regardless of transpired with Vibe, Thicke says “I respect that [their decision] because I live in a house with a black woman. I won’t use the word racism. I will say it’s a tough — but rewarding — fight. I look at Mary J. Blige, somebody who has had only a few pop hits and yet has changed culture, generated new sounds and inspired leagues of artists. She’s now a worldwide phenomenon. And it’s because of what she stood for; she never gave up.”
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