Pharrell Williams:
This Is Me

XXL79Pharrell1.jpgIn any major city in the world, there are certain hotels where the cool kids stay. The hip set, young actors, musicians, artists. But one look at the lobby of the Four Seasons in Midtown Manhattan, and it becomes clear that this isn’t one of those hotels. It’s a nice place to stay, sure—obsequious concierge, famously expensive rooms—but it’s a different kind of nice. It’s Botox and inheritance nice. Vague European accent and air-kisses nice. “Hey, that’s the wife on Everybody Loves Raymond!” nice.

Hold up, though. Wait a minute. Because the other kind of nice just stepped out from the elevator bay. Sauntered, really. Slow enough that, if gauging his velocity and the distracted look on his face, you might think the world was swirling around him at double speed. But that’s Pharrell Williams for you. Dude moves at his own pace, and things are just gonna have to adapt to him.

Take, for instance, the black and pink silk Louis Vuitton handkerchief knotted around his neck, making him look like a flamboyant Jesse James relaxing after a hard day of robbing trains. Or his chain: cartoonishly oversized links, each a different color diamond—blue, yellow, pink, white; a charm featuring a cartoon version of himself with his N.E.R.D. mates, Chad and Shay, and his dog, Dookey. You don’t know whether he got it at Jacob’s or Toys “R” Us.

But we’ve known for a minute now that Pharrell marches to the beat of his own synth-accompanied drum. From the earliest Neptunes productions, he’s been developing a curious falsetto croon that straddles the line between parody and genius. He and partner Chad Hugo have been flirting with styles, blurring the boundaries between musical genres, establishing themselves as the go-to hit factory for… Has it really been eight years since Noreaga’s “SuperThug”?

They came up under new jack swing king Teddy Riley, but the Neptunes’ success started with rap. Nore’s smash, Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass,” ODB’s “Got Your Money.” They passed us the Clipse and the Courvoisier and made it “Hot in Herre” for Nelly. Jigga and Snoop have been steady beneficiaries of ’Tunes tunes, with Snoop going so far as to put out 2004’s R&G: The Masterpiece on their Star Trak label. As the Neptunes’ profile rose steadily through the first half of this decade, though, they proved themselves way beyond generic categorization. (N.E.R.D. is a rock band, really. Or is it funk?) And the likes of Britney Spears (“I’m a Slave 4 U”), Justin Timberlake (“Like I Love You”) and Gwen Stefani (“Hollaback Girl”) have sought, and been granted, the ’Tunes’ platinum touch. And through it all, Pharrell’s been the visible one, the cocky extrovert to Chad’s quiet family man. But somehow, even though he teased people with “Frontin’” a few years back, he’s never gone strictly for dolo. Until now.

See, he’s in New York for an appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman to promote his upcoming solo debut, In My Mind. It seems impossible, given the rise of his celebrity over the past few years, but this CD is truly his first outing on his own—no Chad, no Shay, no Snoop, no Jay-Z (well, maybe on one song). He made the beats, he played the instruments, he sang the hooks. All par for the course. But this time, he also wrote all the rhymes. So it’s a test: Is the world ready for Microphone P?

XXL79Pharrell2.jpgWalking across the lobby, he proffers a fist to bump—a dangerous proposition, given the size and edges of the Burmese sapphire he wears on his left hand. He finds a couch off in a corner, away from curious stares (“Must be a rapper,” whisper some ladies while lunching), and he sits and talks about work. About his production process. About his decision, after all these years of making beats with Chad and lending his voice to other folks, to finally do an album all by himself. He answers questions obligingly, but you can tell it’s no fun for him. He seems uncomfortable: He leans back and looks at the ceiling; he looks at his phone; he looks at… Let’s just say he looks around a lot.

“I just felt like I needed to do it,” he says, of putting In My Mind together. “Something about these songs, I kept going, ‘Yo, I can’t see nobody else doing this but me.’ It was almost like the music itself dictating it.”
He goes on: “There’s a lot of good music out there. But at the same time, I felt that… You know when you’re watching TV late at night, and you’re about to fall asleep, everything’s just monotone? Everything is the same. There’s a lot of people copying music other people have already done. So it makes for an even sound. Just…bland. I feel like I want to wake up society, put the fire under some muthafuckas.”

All of a sudden, he sits up. Perks up. “You really think XXL wants to hear about the beats? I talk about that with magazines all the time.” Fair enough. We cede the floor to the honorable gentleman from Virginia:

Fuck the beats—who’s the guy? Because that’s what it all comes down to. The beat is a fruit from the tree, right? The tree would be me and my life and how I’ve grown. The seed would be where it was planted, and what kind of things in that environment allowed it to grow. I came from Atlantis Apartments, a housing project in Virginia Beach—and that’s where all my best friends ended up dead, in jail, shot, or on drugs. I moved to the suburbs when I was 7-and-a-half.

  • d.GUTTA

    pharrell u are a musical genius.
    i listen to ur music and read ur interviews and it ALWAYS inspires me. continued success MAAAAAAN!!!

  • Q-Tee

    He is dope. But I can really care less about him leaving the projects at 7 and half. 7 and half that shit is hilarious. He was almost hard until the age of 8.

    But no joke he is the one of the hardest producers in the game. Big up Pharell!

  • A

    fucc outa here with those garbage ass rhymes.. stick to makin beats.. a perfect example of why people should stick to their profession.
    emcee’s should stick to rhyming and leave the beats to dj’s and producers. there are some examples of artists being able to do both but sadly they do not really succeed in them both equally.

  • Brittney

    No offense but pharrel really sucks at rapping.lol.He is best at making beats cuz is rhymes are straight wack.An thats for reals.I have to admit he is one of the best producers in hiphop.

  • http://brbun76aol.com Problemz

    What the Hell is Pharrell alking about? Saying he grew up in a housing project in Va Beach Then moved to tne suburbs at 7 1/2. Va beach is a Suburb! The population of Pre Katrina New Orleans, but with an average murder rate of 15 people a year. on top of that there are no puplic housing projects in Va Beach. That apartment complex he’d talked about has some units that are section 8 available. When he and his fake as clipse wanted to shoot the hood for the Grindin’ video, they came to my city, Norfolk Va to do it. There is no hood in Va beach. You guys need to do you yoiur research more thoroughly before let rappers claim that they’re this or that. That is what happen to the source don’t let it happen too you. Fuck all these suburb niggas running around trivializing the hood. Bitch you ain’t have my struggle. Now I understand why T.I. hates on Suburb niggas like Lil Flip and Luda.

  • dipset all day everyday

    Yo Problemz, i stay in vb nicca an you just hating cuz dis nigga somebody an you not, my peoples down wit him an alot of other celebs from the beach/norfolk an to tell you da truth norfolk aint got no real projects like up in NY my nicca. up there yo situation would be gravy so do ya self a favor an shut da fock up> ONE

  • blended hottie

    pharrell willams. everything you touch turns to gold. you are a musical genuis! this albulm is goignt o be fire. All you neptunes/N.E.R.D/star track/pharrell fans are going to love you for it. I can’t wiat:)

  • blended hottie

    FUCK ALL THE DUMB AZZ HATERZ!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Danielle

    First off, too all the people that are focused on his PROJECTS and so pressed on that shit, get a fuckin clue and realize that there is more to this genius than where he came from and wether he is hard or not. Problemz, that is a good name to fit you because it seems you have an uneccessary problem with P.

    Pharrell is talented and I cannot wait to see this article, he is real, great, imaginative, and down right sexy. He is just great. I love N.E.R.D. and the music that he produces. His rap does NOT suck, it’s just not what you damn people are used to. That jeezy, 50 cent, shit… no get out of here with that.

  • bpe

    P is a genius, but what about chad? he’s the one with the guitar sounds. i think chad is a wonderful musician. cause u here a different between the beats of The Neps, and P alone. For example, take Can i have it like that, Angel, Hollaback girl. Those tracks are made by P alone. These ain’t hard as the tracks of the neptunes.

    “in search of” is a great album. Cause u here sum’ guitar/saxophone in in it. And it’s all coz of CH.

    problemz why do u judge him? are u better then him?..i dont think so. u may talk when u’ve make it sucka

    peace

  • Ashley

    I love you pharell your the bussinezz and the haters just hating on you because they want to be you… yaddaaimean hit me up yo biggest fan couchdelicou@yahoo.com

  • http://struggleinthebubblehotmail.com keisha gail

    hi pharrell
    i like your music so much but i prefer when your singing your heart out to me. like frontin, angel,and old d,b’s album is the shit! im wandering what has made you change your beat’s to reggae tone beat’s is because of some chick and were has it come from? i would like it very much if you would remix michael jackson’s classic’s with some old school soul like jame’s brown, marvin gay’ and your favourite soul singer luther vandross,ect. so that elder people will buy this album and it help’s reunite us as a people!michael jackson is still number one king of pop i heard 05 cent is going to make tune with michael jacskson i wander how this will sound let me at your cd what are you waiting for did the girl in club rococo make you change your mind work with me baby.

  • Wordplay

    I just bought the mag Monday, but I’m at work so I’m reading it online.
    But Fuck all that, Pharrell’s style is tight 360. By that I mean, I feel his music and rhymes and I feel that his rhymes have been ignored for the longest. I rap myself and it’s nice to konw that another artist feels the same way about how the industry. I believe that some rappers damn-near destroyed the rap game that many legends worked hard to perfect. For once, a rapper wants to do his own thing and doesn’t care what people say about it. On that note, I can’t wait to buy “In My Mind.”

  • LiZ

    i Think PHARRELLS album is goin to be CRAZY! iM AANXIOUS!!!!

  • http://julienetienne.com Julien

    music in the 90′s and 2000 sucks,,,
    These guys are the ones who turned it around.

    Pharrell does the drums and most of the melodies and chad does the extras and cuts the music up. Pharrell is more of the driver in the Neptunes thats why its ok for him to get more
    publicity then Chad.

    Alot of people dont understand what they did.
    Talking bout:

    Ma$e: Looking at me
    SWV: Free your mind (or whateva)
    McLyte:Cant make a mistake

    They produced alot of shit back then.

    They sold a beat for 2 million. If its true,,,thats history.

    These niggaz are so ill, their doing the music to the transformers movie!

    People dont want to work with the neptunes not coz their mainstream but they rather spend 5Gz on a beat then 100,000.

    Neptunes
    Timberland
    Swiss Beats
    Lil Jon!!!!

    Fuk the rest

  • jeff

    personally I like the old pharrell projects:like “superthug”,”shake that ass”,”in serach of”, back when he was singing hooks and letting that chopper sound rip.am looking forward 4 “In my mind”

  • lillianhp

    dem haters A,Problemz,and Brittney need to stop hatin on my baby pharrell!!! ya’ll talkin bout’ norfolk? norfolk ain’t a hood!!!and what the f*** new orleans got da do wit VA???ya’ll don’t what he went through!!! half of ya’ll niggaz ain’t even from virginia!!!!you wanna see a hood? come to da berg(petersburg)or Dopewell(hopewell)norfolk ain’t a daggon hood!! va beach is a hood!!! it’s not all suburbs!! i catch one of ya’ll in dopewell or da berg, i’ll rock a’ll ya’ll tails!!! i’ll send yo tail back to norfolk jacked up!!!! stop hatin!!!! you sayin his rhymes is wack ya’ll can’t even flow!!! stop hatin on pharrell i ain’t gon’ let ya’ll hate on that man cuz!!!!!!!!!!

  • Danielle

    all the people that dissed him on the lyrics part don’t realize he writes what he produces.

  • in va now

    ayo dipset all day every day is talkin out his ass im not even from va i just go to school here but va beach is nice as a mufucka that shit dont got no projects but norfolk got projects for days and next time yall interview pharrel ask about fam-lay

  • http://www.myspace.com/neefthecutie SkateBoard Neef

    um, pay no mind to haters, niggas pop shit cause they dont got shit, remember that…and ofcourse Pharrell can make it as an MC. He’s been doin shit forever, and making beats isnt all the talent he’s got. Nigga’s Got the industry on lock. while everyone elses beats and music all sound the same, when you hear a Neptunes trak, you automatically know its theirs,from their signature sound. i have no more comments about my dude Skateboard P, he already knows what it is, and also probably doesnt give a fuck about these comments anyway, the dude could wipe his ass with a 1,000 hundred dollar bills and still be the shit. fuck everybody who hating, they mad cause they are fuckin Posers.

  • http://www.myspace.com/not_a_dime_im_priceless Priceles$

    TO ALL OF YALL PHARRELL HATIN MUTHAFUCKAZ… WHATEVA YALL SAY ABOUT WHERE HE FROM, WHAT HE RAP LIKE, WHAT HE CLAIM… WHATEVA HE DOIN, HE MAKIN MONEY!!! AND LOTS OF IT!!! AND YOU AINT, HAHAHA!!! SO SHUT THE FUCK UP… SO WHAT IF MY NIGGA FROM THE SUBURBS!!! THAT JUS MEANS HE BEEN BLESSED ALL HIS FUCKIN LIFE, AINT NOTHIN WRONG WITH THAT… i see you same clown ass muthafuckaz on the floor dancin to all his shit… you wanna hate… SIT THE FUCK DOWN AND THATS REAL… BOY P #1 4 LIFE..

  • Sambo

    hip hop /rap needs to be about the music-i dont give a fuck about your struggle-meaning Idont give a fuck if you are from the projects, the suburbs or the country- spit what you are feeling, make it your own music- dont be judging rappers on if they are from the hood or not or how bad they had it or who has it worse- rate there MSUIC- the point is this VA boy has seriosu talent and is one of the best out there! if he lived in the projects or not WHO GIVES A FUCK…Keep reppin VA boy, Northern VA is lovin your shit- Stay up

  • brunette x3 barbii

    wow pharrell ur the best.i love ur music.

  • chrissy

    Pharrell is the hottest fucking thing that I have ever seen!! Love your music and Fuck the Haters!!

    -ox.

  • kailee

    pharrell

  • http://LYDEA LYDEA

    OH MY GOD NO WAYE BRITNEY SPERS DUM