It's hard to imagine an artist who has had more of a direct influence on pop music and hip-hop over the past 12 months than Pharrell Williams. The Virginia-born producer has helmed hit after hit after hit for the likes of Jay Z, Beyoncé, Robin Thicke and Daft Punk, to name just a few, and his first solo album since 2006, G I R L
, was released yesterday (Mar. 3) to critical acclaim—including from XXL
. He's also riding the wave of his current No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, "Happy," and an electrifying performance at Sunday night's Oscars, where he narrowly missed out on winning the Best Original Song award.
But it didn't all start out with chart-topping displays of musical mastery; Pharrell started out grindin' just like everyone else, hustling to get placements and features before finally breaking through with his Neptunes cohort Chad Hugo by producing Noreaga's "Superthug" in 1998. Since then, Skateboard P has surfed through the musical landscape with a chameleon-like ability to both dictate and adapt to the mainstream's tastes. Last Thursday (Feb. 27), before he took the stage at the Oscars wearing his now-trademarked Smokey The Bear hat and made the entire theater get up and dance alongside him, the man himself hopped on the phone with XXL
to talk about his recent successes, his ability to stay current after 20 years in the business and how he broke through in the music industry out of sheer love for the game. —Dan Rys (@danrys)