Pharrell Williams (born April 5, 1973), is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, and fashion designer. Williams and Chad Hugo make up the record production duo The Neptunes, producing Soul, hip hop and R&B music. He is also the lead vocalist and drummer of rock, funk, and 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.
As part of The Neptunes, Williams has produced numerous hit singles for various musicians. Williams has earned eight Grammy Awards, four of which as part of The Neptunes. 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 edit:
Pharrell Williams was born on April 5, 1973, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the oldest of all three sons of Carolyn, a teacher, and Pharaoh Williams, a handyman. 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. Williams attended Princess Anne High School where he played in the school band; there he got the name Skateboard P. Hugo attended Kempsville High School.
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. After graduating from high school, the group signed with Riley.
1992-1997: Career beginnings edit:
Through working with Riley, Williams went on to write a verse and help produce for Wreckx-N-Effect's 1992 hit "Rump Shaker". 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 edit:
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. 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.
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. 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.
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 edit:
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. 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. 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. 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. Later that year, Williams worked on a remix album for Maroon 5's Call & Response.
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. In September 2009, Williams was credited as a co-writer and producer of the song "Fresh Out the Oven" for Jennifer Lopez. 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. 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. 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. In late 2011, Williams worked on three tracks for Mike Posner's second album Sky High.
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.
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. He is also collaborating with the singer-songwriter Miley Cyrus on her new album and composed the new intro music for Chelsea Lately in 2012. He later contributed four tracks to The Game's California Republic mixtape called "When My Niggas Come Home" and "It Must be Tough"; produced two tracks on Usher's 2012 seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, titled "Twisted" and "Hot Thing"; produced two tracks on Adam Lambert's 2012 second studio album, Trespassing, titled "Trespassing" and "Kickin'In"; collaborated with Mika on his new track "Celebrate"; co-produced the tracks "Sweet Life" and "Golden Girl" from Frank Ocean's debut album Channel Orange; and is working with Solange Knowles on her third studio album. He is also featured on Daft Punk's fourth studio album Random Access Memories, including its lead single "Get Lucky" and Azealia Banks's upcoming album Broke With Expensive Taste, on the song "ATM JAM."
Musical style edit:
Williams has stated that he does not have any direct influences, but has expressed his admiration of several musicians, including Michael Jackson, J Dilla, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Rakim and Q-Tip. 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".
Business ventures edit:
Pharrell 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. 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.
In 2009, Pharrell unveiled a collaborative sculpture with Takashi Murakami at Art Basel, which spoke to the metaphor of value.
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.
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.
On August 1, 2011, Williams launched his new YouTube channel, i am OTHER as part of YouTube's $100 million dollar original channel initiative.
Pharrell: Places and Spaces I've Been edit:
On October 16, 2012, Williams released his book, Pharrell: Places and Spaces I've Been.
Book Description: "Redefining cool for a new generation, Pharrell Williams is a creative force, using music, fashion, and design to express his distinctive style. Originating at the crossroads of art, design, popular culture, and street savvy, Pharrell Williams's output is unique. By playing off different disciplines--namely music, fashion, street art, and design--and using each as an element in the other, Pharrell has redefined the role of the contemporary recording artist, blazing a trail for other musicians and prominent cultural figures. Illustrated with lavish photography, this book also explores his musical career in depth, charting his many projects from his production team The Neptunes, to the band N.E.R.D., and his collaborations with friends Kanye West, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and other hip-hop royalty. This unprecedented volume documents Pharrell's prolific body of work and his contribution to contemporary culture. In his own unique graphic language, he details his extensive creative pursuits, including clothing lines, jewelry, and accessories designs for Louis Vuitton, furniture and other product design, limited-edition toys, graphic designs, skate graphics, and collaborations with Moncler, Marc Jacobs, the artist KAWS, and with architects Zaha Hadid and Masamichi Katayama/Wonderwall."
Personal life edit:
In 2005, Williams was voted "Best Dressed Man in the World" by Esquire. He is a fan of the science fiction series Star Trek, 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". Williams is a skateboarder and has a half-pipe inside his home. In April 2009, Williams underwent a skin procedure for tattoo removal. In 2012, Williams got engaged to his girlfriend, model and fashion designer Helen Lasichanh.