Pharrell Williams

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Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams performing with N.E.R.D in Pori Jazz 2010.
Background information
Also known asSkateboard P, Pharrell, Sk8brd (mononym), Auto Goon
Born(1973-04-05) April 5, 1973 (age 39)
OriginVirginia Beach, Virginia, United States
GenresHip hop, R&B, funk
OccupationsProducer, musician, songwriter, singer, rapper, fashion designer
LabelsStar Trak, Interscope, i am Other
Associated actsSnoop Dogg, The Neptunes, N.E.R.D, Child Rebel Soldier, Jay-Z, MIKA, Swedish House Mafia
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Pharrell Williams

Pharrell Williams performing with N.E.R.D in Pori Jazz 2010.
Background information
Also known asSkateboard P, Pharrell, Sk8brd (mononym), Auto Goon
Born(1973-04-05) April 5, 1973 (age 39)
OriginVirginia Beach, Virginia, United States
GenresHip hop, R&B, funk
OccupationsProducer, musician, songwriter, singer, rapper, fashion designer
LabelsStar Trak, Interscope, i am Other
Associated actsSnoop Dogg, The Neptunes, N.E.R.D, Child Rebel Soldier, Jay-Z, MIKA, Swedish House Mafia

Pharrell Williams (born April 5, 1973), professionally known as Pharrell, is an American rapper, singer, record producer, composer and fashion designer. Williams and Chad Hugo make up the record production duo The Neptunes, producing hip hop and R&B music. He is also the lead vocalist and drummer of hip-hop band N.E.R.D, which he formed with Hugo and childhood friend Shay Haley. He released his first single "Frontin'" in 2003 and followed up with his first album In My Mind in 2006.[1]

As part of The Neptunes, Williams has produced numerous hit singles for various musicians.[2] The two have earned three Grammy Awards amongst ten nominations. He is also the co-founder of the clothing brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Clothing. He is a member of the supergroup V.A. Playaz with Fam-Lay, Clipse, Skillz, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland & Magoo.


Early life

Pharrell Williams 2005 in Berlin

Pharrell Williams was born on April 5, 1973, in Virginia Beach, Virginia,[3][4] the oldest of all three sons of Carolyn, a teacher, and Pharaoh Williams, a handyman.[5] He met Chad Hugo in a seventh-grade summer band camp where Williams played the keyboards and drums and Hugo played tenor saxophone. They were also both members of a marching band; Williams played the snare drum while Chad was student conductor.[6][7] With Hugo, Williams attended Princess Anne High School where they played in the school band; there he got the name Skateboard P.[8]

In the 1990s, Hugo and Williams formed a four-piece "R&B type" group, The Neptunes, with friends Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge. They later entered a high school talent show where they were discovered by Teddy Riley, whose studio was next to Princess Anne High School.[9] After graduating from high school, the group signed with Riley.[10]


1992–1997: Career beginnings

Through working with Maddison Harper, Williams went on to write a verse for Wreckx-N-Effect's 1992 hit "Rump Shaker".[11] That same year, he also performed a small rap solo on SWV's second hit, "Right Here (UK Remix)". In 1994, Hugo and Williams had established themselves as a production duo under their old name "The Neptunes", and produced "Tonight's The Night" from Blackstreet's self-titled album. Over the next three years they continued to produce occasionally, and some of the results had little resemblance to the Neptunes sound later. However, some like Mase's 1997 song "Lookin' at Me" from his album Harlem World, and the most definite beginning of the distinctive "Neptunes sound", came with N.O.R.E's "Superthug" in 1998, reaching number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, and gaining them widespread attention for the first time. In 1999, a mutual friend introduced Pharrell to Kelis, and their resulting collaboration produced her first album Kaleidoscope.

1998–2004: The Neptunes

At this point The Neptunes were gaining a wide fanbase and audience. In 2001, The Neptunes produced Britney Spears' single, "I'm a Slave 4 U" gaining their first worldwide number one.[12] The same year, N.E.R.D, consisting of Williams, Hugo and Haley, released their first album, In Search of..., in Europe, where the first Kelis album was better received. The album sounded very much like their previous production work; the group decided that they should make their work as N.E.R.D sound different, and re-recorded the album with the rock band Spymob. Williams and Hugo met rap duo Clipse in Virginia Beach in 1993, where they were signed to Arista Records through Williams' Star Trak Entertainment imprint.[13][14]

Then in 2002 their re-produced album was released worldwide, and The Neptunes reached number one in the U.S. with Nelly's single, "Hot in Herre". In August of the same year, The Neptunes were named "Producers of the Year" at both The Source Awards and the Billboard Music Awards. Clipse released their commercial debut album Lord Willin' in August 2002. The album started at number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and number four on the Billboard 200, fueled by its first two singles, "Grindin'" and "When the Last Time", which peaked at number 34 and number 19 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100.

The Neptunes released a self-credited album called The Neptunes Present... Clones in 2003, with songs and remixes from various artists. This topped the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart. The Neptunes and Williams specifically were also kept in public eye largely due to ties with Jay-Z, producing several hit singles for him and two tracks on his The Black Album. The track "Frontin'" was a big hit (the 34th biggest of 2003 according to Billboard). A survey in August 2003 found the Neptunes produced almost 20 percent of songs played on British radio at the time, a survey in the US had them at 43 percent.[6] The same year, The Neptunes remixed the Daft Punk song Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger for the duo's poorly-received remix album Daft Club. The track also had a brief rap section performed by Williams.[15]

N.E.R.D's second funk rock-oriented album, Fly or Die, released in March 2004. Williams' rock credentials were further bolstered by his appearance at the 2004 Grammy Awards, performing The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" on drums with Sting, Dave Matthews, and Vince Gill. Williams received two Grammy Awards that night, one for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, and another for Best Pop Vocal Album for his work on Justin Timberlake's hit album Justified. They also gained their first UK number one, again with Nelly, and Flap Your Wings.

2005–2009: First album and collaborations

Williams and Astronaut Leland Melvin present a montage to Quincy Jones

On September 9, 2005, Williams performed the opening single from his first solo album In My Mind, "Can I Have It Like That", featuring Gwen Stefani. The single did poorly in the US, reaching only number 48. It fared better in the UK, reaching number three. Between then and the July 25, 2006 release of "In My Mind", he released "Angel" (in Europe only), and later "Number One" with Kanye West. Several songs leaked to the internet before the album release, most notably "Mamacita" featuring Daddy Yankee, which was subsequently cut from the final version. "That Girl" featuring Snoop Dogg was the final single.

In 2006, Williams produced Clipse's second album Hell Hath No Fury. Most critics labeled the album Williams's best production in years, and put the duo back in the charts.[16] A year later, Williams collaborated with Madonna, on the song "Hey You", which was available for download on the MSN website. 25 cents for each of the first one million downloads was donated to the Alliance for Climate Protection, in support of Live Earth.[17] Later that year, Williams performed songs at the Concert for Diana on July 1, 2007. Then, on July 7, 2007, he performed at the Brazilian leg of Live Earth in Rio de Janeiro.

A second album, titled Out of My Mind, was recorded with his newly formed band "The Yessirs" featuring Questlove of The Roots. However, Williams' record label did not think that a companion album to the first would sell well.[18] He also produced Beyoncé's version of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend". He then wrote and produced "Why Should I Be Sad" on Britney Spears' fifth studio album, Blackout. He also produced two songs from The Hives album, The Black and White Album, titled "Well All Right!" and "T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S.".

In April 2008, Madonna released her eleventh album, Hard Candy, which featured vocals from Williams and production from The Neptunes on several tracks. In June, an article in NME revealed that Williams was very interested in producing The Strokes' fourth album.[19] Later that year, Williams worked on a remix album for Maroon 5's Call & Response.[20]

Williams continued working with a variety of artists, including Shakira on the songs 'Did It Again', 'Why Wait', 'Good Stuff' and 'Long Time' for her sixth studio album, She Wolf.[21] In September 2009, Williams was credited as a co-writer and producer of the song "Fresh Out the Oven" for Jennifer Lopez.[22] It was released as a buzz single from Lopez's seventh studio album Love? The following month, Williams made a guest appearance on French indie/electronic rapper Uffie's first album, which arrived in early 2010.[23] In late 2009, Williams worked with the rapper Game on his fourth studio album, The R.E.D. Album.


In July 2010, Williams composed the soundtrack to the movie Despicable Me at the Hollywood Studio Symphony.[24] In October 2010, Williams and his group N.E.R.D supported Gorillaz on their Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour. On the tour, Damon Albarn recorded a song with Williams but this was not featured on Gorillaz's album, The Fall, but it may appear on a future album.[15] In late 2011, Williams worked on three tracks for Mike Posner's second album Sky High.[25]

In 2011, Williams collaborated with singer/composer Adam Lambert, co-writing two tracks for Lambert's album "Trespassing", which was released in May 2012, including the title track and "Kickin' In".

In 2012, it was announced on Lupe Fiasco's website that he and Lupe will work on a collaborative album and work on Waka Flocka Flame's album Triple F Life: Friends, Fans and Family.[citation needed]

In 2012 Pharrell launched a new show called ARTST TLK. ARTST TLK is one of 7 original programs on Reserve Channel, a "Youtube" Original premium Channel. ARTST TLK is an Progressive take on the talk show format, and is committed to exploring the world of creativity, artists, and their creative vision. Pharrell Williams is the host of the show and curates the featured guests on every episode of ARTST TLK. Each episode explores a particular creative channel. Writing/authors, paining/visual artists, music, architecture, etc and an open discussion about their passions influences and motivations.

The Premiere episode of ARTST TLK featured acclaimed authors/investigative writers "Ben Mezrich" who wrote "Bringing Down The House"- the story of the MIT Blackjack team, and "The Accidental Billionaires" - the story of "Facebook" which be came the acclaimed move "The Social Network", and "Andy Greenberg" who is a "Forbes editor", is an expert and trusted friend of "Julian Assange" of "Wikileaks", and wrote "This Machine Kills Secrets" a definitive work on hackers, cyber terrorism, and Wikileaks.

Episode #2 was focused around painters/visual arts and again featured 2 acclaimed artists: Notable post modern painter "David Salle" who has had his work displayed at the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the Met, and "Kaws" a graffiti/street artist form New jersey who crossed over into mainstream success with his vinyl toy creations and had a balloon in the 2012 "Macy's" Thanksgiving day parade.

Currently, he is working with Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller on the "Pink Slime" EP. One track, entitled "Onaroll", was already released followed by a second track, entitled "Glow". It was produced by Pharrell, with vocals from Mac Miller.

Williams composed and produced the music for the 84th Academy Awards with composer Hans Zimmer.[26]

Pharrell is now collaborating with the singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus on her new album.

Pharrell composed the new intro music for Chelsea Lately.

Pharrell recently contributed four tracks to The Game's California Republic mixtape called "When My Niggas Come Home" and "It Must be Tough".

Pharrell produced two tracks on Usher's 2012 seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, titled "Twisted" and "Hot Thing."[27]

Pharrell produced two tracks on Adam Lambert's 2012 second studio album, Trespassing, titled "Trespassing" and "Kickin'In."

Pharrell recently collaborated with Mika on his new track "Celebrate".

He co-produced the track "Sweet Life" from Frank Ocean's debut album Channel Orange.

In August 8, 2012. Mac Miller & Pharrell released the second track called "Glow" from "Pink Slime" EP. But this time Pharrell makes vocals in the hook.

Williams is working with Singer/Songwriter Solange Knowles on her third studio album which is set to release in early 2013. Williams worked with Solange Knowles on her second studio album in 2008 entitled Sol-Angel and The Hadley Street Dreams on her breakout hit, "I Decided".

Musical style

Williams has stated that he does not have any direct influences,[28] but has expressed his admiration of several musicians, including Michael Jackson, J Dilla, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Rakim and Q-Tip.[28][29] Williams explained that A Tribe Called Quest's 1990 album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, caused a "turning point" in his life, which "made me see that music was art".[29] His style of production includes very unusual sounds, which give a feeling of being extra terrestrial.[citation needed] His beats have heavy percussions and synths.

Business ventures

Pharrell met Nigo, a Japanese record producer and creator of the clothing line A Bathing Ape, in Japan and bonded[vague] through similar interests, where they began working together on their fashion lines.[4] He later co-founded the clothing brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Footwear. He has a boutique store in New York City on West Broadway.

In 2008, Pharrell co-designed a series of jewelry ("Blason") and glasses for Louis Vuitton.[30] He has also worked on furniture with Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin and a French manufacturer, Domeau & Pérès. One of his works, a molded plastic seat with human legs, was created because he "wanted to know what it was like to be in love." The chair depicts a sexual scene with a pair of female legs and male legs.[31]

In 2009, Pharrell unveiled a collaborative sculpture with Takashi Murakami at Art Basel, which spoke to the metaphor of value.[32]

In 2010, Pharrell founded Kidult, a news and entertainment website for teens. Inspired by his young fans, Williams believed they deserved a website that respected their intelligence and covered their diverse interests—from science to fashion.[citation needed]

In May 2011, it was announced that Williams would serve as Creative Director of KarmaloopTV alongside founder and CEO Greg Selkoe and former AMC president Katie McEnroe.[33]

On August 1, 2011, Williams launched his new YouTube channel, i am Other.[34]

Personal life

In 2005, Williams was voted "Best Dressed Man in the World" by Esquire.[35] He is a fan of the science fiction series Star Trek,[36] as indicated by his consistent use of the Vulcan salute to signify his label name, Star Trak. He also enjoys the works of the late astronomer and science lecturer Carl Sagan, whom he calls "a genius".[37] Williams is a skateboarder and has a half-pipe inside his home.[38] In April 2009, Williams underwent a skin procedure for tattoo removal.[39] In 2012, Williams got engaged to his girlfriend, model and fashion designer Helen Lasichanh. They have a son named Rocket Mann Williams, named after the Elton John song, 'Rocket man'.[40]


Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards
2004Producer of the Year (with Chad Hugo)N/AWon
Best Pop Vocal Album (with Justin Timberlake)PopJustifiedWon
Best Rap/Sung CollaborationRap"Frontin'" (with Jay-Z)Nominated
Best Rap/Sung CollaborationRap"Beautiful" (with Snoop Dogg) featuring Terrence CampbellNominated
Best Rap SongRap"Beautiful" (with Snoop Dogg)Nominated
Best Rap SongRap"Excuse Me Miss" (with Jay-Z)Nominated
2005Best Rap Performance by a Duo or GroupRap"Drop It Like It's Hot" (with Snoop Dogg)Nominated
Best Rap SongRap"Drop It Like It's Hot" (with Snoop Dogg)Nominated
2007Best Rap SongRap"Money Maker" (with Ludacris)Won
Best Rap AlbumRapIn My MindNominated


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External links