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Pharrell Williams

Williams performing in Montreal, September 30, 2008
Background information
Also known as Pharrell
Born April 5, 1973 (1973-04-05) (age 36)
Origin Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States
Genres Hip hop, rock, pop, funk, R&B
Occupations Record producer, singer-songwriter, rapper, multi-instrumentalist, fashion designer
Instruments Vocals, rapping, drums, piano, keyboards, guitar
Years active 1992–present
Labels Star Trak, Interscope
Associated acts The Neptunes, N.E.R.D, Child Rebel Soldier, Jay-Z

Pharrell Williams (born April 5, 1973), commonly known as Pharrell, is an American recording artist, producer, musician and fashion designer. Along with Chad Hugo, they make the record production duo The Neptunes, where they produce pop, hip hop and R&B music. He is also the lead vocalist and drummer of rock band N.E.R.D, which he formed with Hugo and childhood friend Shay Haley. He is also a member of the hip-hop supergroup Child Rebel Soldier (CRS), along with Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco. He released his debut single "Frontin'" in 2003 and followed up with his debut album In My Mind in 2006.

As part of The Neptunes, Williams has produced numerous hit singles for various music artists. The Neptunes 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.


Life and career


1973–1991: Early life

Pharrell Williams was born on April 5, 1973, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[1][2] He was born eldest of three sons to Carolyn, a teacher, and Pharoah Williams, a handyman.[3] 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 took the role of student conductor.[4][5] Along with Hugo, Williams attended Princess Anne High School where they played in the school band.[6]

In the 1990s, Hugo and Williams formed a 4-piece "R&B type" group along with friends Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge, which they named The Neptunes. They later entered a high school talent show where they were discovered by Teddy Riley, whose studio was next to Princess Anne High School.[7] After graduating from high school, they signed with Riley as a group.[8]

1992–2001: Career beginnings

Through working with Teddy Riley, Williams went on to write a verse for Wreckx-N-Effect's 1992 hit "Rump Shaker".[9] 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 formally as a production duo under the previously used name "The Neptunes", and produced "Tonight's The Night" from Blackstreet's self-titled debut. Over the next three years they continued to produce occasionally. Some of the production had little resemblance to the trademark Neptunes sound present today. However, some like Mase's 1997 song "Lookin' At Me" from his album Harlem World, and the most definite beginning of the so-called 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, the duo then worked heavily with Kelis, producing her first album Kaleidoscope in its entirety and Ol' Dirty Bastard's Nigga Please, followed by Mystikal's hit single, "Shake Ya Ass".

2001–2004: In Search Of..., Clipse and Fly or Die

In 2001, The Neptunes produced Britney Spears' single, "I'm a Slave 4 U" gaining their first worldwide number one.[10] 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.[11][12]

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 opened at number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and number four on the Billboard 200, fueled by the strength of 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, featuring songs and remixes from various artists. This album 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 landing two tracks on his album The Black Album. The track "Frontin'" was a big hit (the 34th biggest single of 2003 according to Billboard magazine). 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.[4] 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 featured 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 along with Sting, Dave Matthews, and Vince Gill. Williams went home with 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–present: Debut 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 debut 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, along with Chad Hugo, produced Clipse's second album Hell Hath No Fury. Most critics labeled the album to be Williams's best production in years, and put the Virginia rap duo back in the charts.[13]

On May 16, 2007, for seven days only, the first of two expected collaborations with Madonna, entitled "Hey You", was made available for free download from the MSN website. MSN, in conjunction with Madonna, donated 25 cents for each of the first one million downloads to the Alliance for Climate Protection, in support of Live Earth.[14] 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, entitled 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.[15] He also produced Beyoncé's rendition 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. Later in June, an article in NME revealed that Williams is very interested in producing The Strokes' fourth album.[16] Williams, along with other musicians, is to work on a remix album for Maroon 5's Call & Response.[17]

Pharrell worked with Colombian artist Shakira on several songs for her sixth studio album, She Wolf. The songs Williams worked on are , 'Did It Again', 'Why Wait', 'Good Stuff' and 'Long Time'. The album was released in October 2009.[18]

It has been revealed that Williams will collaborate with Lindsay Lohan on her upcoming third studio album Spirit in the Dark. He will also provide guest vocals on the album's first single, "Playground".[19]

In September 2009, it was announced that Williams co-wrote and produced a song titled "Fresh Out The Oven" for Jennifer Lopez.[20]. The song was released as a buzz single from Lopez's upcoming seventh studio album Love?, which is due for release in the Summer of 2010.

In October 2009, it was announced that he would make a guest appearance on critically acclaimed, French indie/electronic rapper Uffie's debut album, due out in early 2010.[21]

He has also worked with rapper Snoop Dogg and singer Brandy (now Bran'Nu) on the song "Special" in Snoop Dogg's album Malice 'n' Wonderland.

Pharrell has been featured on an unofficial remix/mash-up of "Arab Money" featuring Busta Rhymes.

Pharrell and Kid Cudi collaborated on an untitled song for Kid Cudi's second studio album Cudder: The Revolution of Evolution. Cudi described the song as a "club hit".[22]

In late 2009, Pharrell also started working with the multi-Platinum recording artist "Game" (previously known as The Game) for his fourth studio album known as "The R.E.D. Album".

Musical style

Williams has a vocal range of a countertenor.[2] He often sings in a falsetto, which he utilizes during the hook of a song.[23] Critics often say that Williams has the inability to rap or sing,[24][25][26] but point out that his singing is better than his rapping.[27] Alasdair Lees of The Independent felt that Williams "strives for the Prince effect", but sounds like Bobby Valentino "on work experience".[26] Anthony Henriques of PopMatters noted that Williams is not a "technically gifted rapper", "does not have a beautiful voice" and his lyrics are "typically inconsequential in a 'saying shit just to sound cool' sort of way", but found strengths in his choruses, which he pointed out "typically use a catchy phrase or recognizable melody as an anchor for his nonsensical verses".[28]

Williams has encompassed a broad range of genres, including hip hop, R&B, pop, rock and funk.[1][29] His lyrics often pertain to his childhood, family, religious faith and sexuality.[30] In the album review for Seeing Sounds by N.E.R.D, Christian Hoard of Rolling Stone felt he learned nothing from his lyrics except that Williams was sexually aroused.[31]

Williams has stated that he does not have any direct influences,[32] but has expressed his admiration of several recording artists, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Rakim and Q-Tip.[32][33] Williams described A Tribe Called Quest's 1990 album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, as a "turning point" in his life, which "made me see that music was art".[33]


Williams met Nigo, a Japanese record producer and creator of the clothing line A Bathing Ape, in Japan and bonded through similar interests, where they began working together on their fashion lines.[2] Williams later co-founded the clothing brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Footwear. In 2008, Williams co-designed a series of glasses and jewelry for Louis Vuitton.[34] 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.[35] Pharrell recently recorded a song for the upcoming computer animated film Despicable Me. The song is featured in the trailer.

Personal life

He often wears a trucker hat[23] and was voted the "Best Dressed Man in the World" in 2005 by Esquire magazine.[36] He is a fan of the science fiction series Star Trek,[37] 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".[38] Williams has a half-pipe inside his home.[39] In April 2009, Williams underwent laser surgery to have most of his tattoos removed.[40]


Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards
Year Category Genre Title Result
2004 Producer of the Year (with Chad Hugo) N/A Won
Best Pop Vocal Album Pop Justified Won
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Rap "Frontin'" (with Jay-Z) Nominated
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration Rap "Beautiful" (with Snoop Dogg) featuring Terrence Campbell Nominated
Best Rap Song Rap "Beautiful" (with Snoop Dogg) Nominated
Best Rap Song Rap "Excuse Me Miss" (with Jay-Z) Nominated
2005 Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group Rap "Drop It Like It's Hot" (with Snoop Dogg) Nominated
Best Rap Song Rap "Drop It Like It's Hot" (with Snoop Dogg) Nominated
2007 Best Rap Song Rap "Money Maker" (with Ludacris) Won
Best Rap Album Rap In My Mind Nominated


  1. ^ a b Kellman, Andy. "Pharrell Williams - Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  2. ^ a b c Bainbridge, Luke (2005-11-05). "Just Williams". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2008-12-13. 
  3. ^ "Pharrell Williams". People. Time. 2003-10-13.,,20148349,00.html. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  4. ^ a b Campbell, Melissa (2004-05-15). "Like the song? These guys wrote it". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  5. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha (2004-02-08). "Style; The Sound". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  6. ^ Shiver Jr., Jube (2004-02-08). "Virginia is for hip-hop lovers". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  7. ^ Balanga, Renan (2002). Chad Hugo: Rock Star. Yolk. Retrieved on May 22, 2007.
  8. ^ Sound & Recording (December 2003). Chad Hugo Interview. Sound & Recording. Retrieved on May 22, 2007.
  9. ^ Kimpel, Dan (2006). How They Made It. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 124–125. ISBN 0634076426. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  10. ^ Ried, Shaheem (September 28, 2001). Neptunes' Pharrell Williams Rethinks R&B. "MTV". Retrieved on July 17, 2008.
  11. ^ Brackett, Nathan (2002-09-13). "New Faces: The Clipse". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  12. ^ Torbati, June (2006-12-08). "Rap duo 'Clipse' rocks the gangsta hip-hop scene". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Retrieved on May 22, 2007.
  15. ^ (September 14, 2007). Out Of His Mind, Pharrell Williams has problem. Retrieved on September 16, 2007
  16. ^ (June 13, 2008). Pharrell Williams: 'I want to produce The Strokes' new album' NME. Accessed August 15, 2008.
  17. ^ Cohen, Jonathan (2008-10-31). "Pharrell, Oakenfold, Of Montreal Remix Maroon 5". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Busy P Blog (10/03/2009), CoolCats.
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b "Pharrell Williams: Trak Star". MTV News. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  24. ^ McGarvey, Evan (2006-07-25). "Pharrell - In My Mind - Review". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  25. ^ Vrabel, Jeff (2006-07-26). "Pharrell: In My Mind - Music". PopMatters. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  26. ^ a b Lees, Alasdair (2006-12-29). "Pharrell, Brixton Academy, London". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  27. ^ Elan, Priya (2006-08-07). "Pharrell Williams - Pharrell: In My Mind - Album Reviews". NME. Time. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  28. ^ Henriques, Anthony (2008-06-19). "N.E.R.D.: Seeing Sounds". PopMatters. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  29. ^ Kellman, Andy. "In My Mind - Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  30. ^ "Pharrell - In My Mind review". Virgin Media. 2006-07-24. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  31. ^ Hoard, Christian (2008-06-12). "Seeing Sounds - N.E.R.D. - Review". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 2009-01-15. 
  32. ^ a b Kondo, Toshitaka. "Pharrell Williams, Accidental Crooner". VH1. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  33. ^ a b Scaggs, Austin (2005-11-17). "Q&A: Pharrell Williams". Rolling Stoner. Wenner Media. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  34. ^ "Hip-hop's glittering touchstone". The Australian. News Corporation. 2009-02-27.,25197,25111550-5013575,00.html. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  35. ^ Saucy Seating Art+Auction. Retrieved on November 13, 2008.
  36. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (August 11, 2005). Pharrell Is The World's Best-Dressed Man (According To Esquire, Anyway). MTV. Retrieved on May 22, 2007.
  37. ^ The nerd who inherited the earth. Retrieved on May 22, 2007.
  38. ^ Blender (August 2006). Blender Q & A: Pharrell Williams. Retrieved on May 22, 2007.
  39. ^ AskMen (February 10, 2007). 13 Questions With Pharrell. Retrieved on May 22, 2007.
  40. ^ "Pharrell Williams - Pharrell Has Laser Surgery to Remove Tattoos". 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 

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