By Jules Champion
When discussing Pharrell as a music artist most people roll their eyes; they think of “Happy” and the “Despicable Me” soundtrack with Pharrell in his silly little Vivienne Westwood Buffalo Hat. Outside of that song, and its legacy as one of the most overplayed and annoying songs of the past 2 decades, Pharrell has been dynamite. From features, to production, to his work with N.E.R.D, Pharrell has been defining the charts since the early 2000s. To state it lightly he has been one of the most prolific and influential artists of the 21st century, and without that stupid hat, I’m sure you’d agree.
To understand Pharrell’s influence you have to look at the two primary groups he belongs to: “N.E.R.D” and “The Neptunes”. The more known of these two, “N.E.R.D” (No-one Ever Really Dies), is a rap and rock band composed of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley. Formed in Hugo’s garage the band was unknown to anyone, until being discovered by Teddy Riley at a Highschool talent show in 1992. Since their first official release in 2002 the band has had huge success especially in the United Kingdom with “She Wants to Move” from the band’s sophomore album “Fly or Die” going top 5 on the United Kingdom charts. With the release of their third album “Seeing Sounds” (2008) the band opened for Kanye West on his “Glow in the Dark” Tour (almost missing their performance at the Isle of Wight festival due to actually not being able to find the island). Since then the band has had some regression with their 2010 album “Nothing” debuting at 21 on the U.S. chart and 83rd in the U.K. and their 2017 album “No One Ever Really Dies” debuting 31st in the U.S. and 80th in the U.K. Regardless, the band has released some classic tracks with “Lapdance”, “She Wants to Move”, “Hot-n-Fun” featuring Nelly Furtado, and “Lemon” featuring Rihanna.
The real influence of Pharrell lies beyond N.E.R.D with his other group, “The Neptunes”. This production duo of Pharrell Williams and the formerly mentioned Chad Hugo through the 90s to 20s have gone on a tear producing some insane tracks.
To name a few:
Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams for the “Hollaback Girl” music video/ Brittney Spears at the 2001 VMAs
“Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani
“I’m a Slave 4 U” and “Boys” by Britney Spears
“Hot in Herre” and “Get Like Me” by Nelly
“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk
“Drop it Like its Hot” and “Peaches n’ Cream” by Snoop Dogg
“Alright” and “Good Kid” by Kendrick Lamar
“Sweet Life” and “Pink + White” by Frank Ocean
“Tokyo Drift” by Teriyaki Boyz
“Milkshake” by Kelis
“Sweetener” by Ariana Grande
“30 Hours” by Kanye West
“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke
“Supermodel” by SZA
“#ATMJAM” by Azealia Banks
“Sing” by Ed Sheehan
“Neon Guts” by Lil Uzi Vert
“Skeletons” by Travis Scott
“Are We Still Friends” by Tyler the Creator
“Frontal Lobe Muzik” by Daniel Caesar
“Freak” by Doja Cat
“Objects in the Mirror” by Mac Miller
“Burgundy” by Earl Sweatshirt
“Feds Watching” by 2 Chainz
“Surfin” by Kid Cudi
“Stir Fry” by Migos
“Apeshit” by the Carters
3 songs for SWV’s 1996 Album “New Beginning”
Kelis’ debut album “Kaleidoscope”
“Zoom” by Dr Dre
“Come Close” by Common
And that’s not including artists like, Brand Nubian, Prince, Ludacris, the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Busta Rhymes, Usher, Mary J. Blige, Ice Cube, No Doubt, Toni Braxton, TLC, Mariah Carey, T.I., Mike E, Justin Timberlake, 702, Solange, Nas, Madonna, John Legend, Pitbull, Shakira, Miley Cyrus, Meg Thee Stallion, Ashnikko, and Pop Smoke.
This kind of tear is prolific and has earned “The Neptunes” Producer of the Year in 2004 and Producer of the Decade in 2009 with several more nominations.
Chances are, Pharrell has worked with your favorite artist to create a song you love. Across decades and across genres Pharrell (with a lot of help from Chad Hugo) has created one of the most beautiful discographies of all time. With his image issues and hat aside, Pharrell Williams deserves his credit musically for his influence in the studio through rapping, singing, writing, and producing. Next time someone asks you your favorite artist, I expect you to say Pharrell.