Pharrell Williams is everywhere these days, following his smash guest appearance on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” production on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and solo chart-topper “Happy.” He’s a 40-year old who somehow looks EXACTLY THE SAME as he did at age 20. He is a vampire.
Mr. Williams has been churning out big hits since the late 1990s, both as a solo producer and as a member of The Neptunes and N*E*R*D. Oh, you knew that already? Take a gander at this partial list of productions: Wreckx N’ Effect – “Rump Shaker,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Got Your Money,” Ludacris– “Southern Hospitality,” Mystikal – “Shake Ya Ass,” Britney Spears – “I’m A Slave 4 U,” Fabolous – “Holla Back,” Justin Timberlake – “Rock Your Body,” Nelly – “Hot in Herre,” Snoop Dogg – “Beautiful” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Jay-Z – “Change Clothes,” Gwen Stefani – “Hollaback Girl.”
Please read that list again. It’s insane, and a tiny fraction of a discography that includes a number of rock acts (The Hives, Scissor Sisters, Fall Out Boy) and two film scores (“Despicable Me”). Over the past 16 years, Pharrell has improbably defined the sound of a generation, and he is now bigger than ever. Is that a good thing?
For most of his career, Pharrell was a super-guest or unseen influence, lending a song just what it needed to get over the hump and onto the radio. His laconic raps exude worldly confidence that skip between the mean streets and Milan: “Up in Donatella’s crib, me and like ten hoes/call from the cell phone, give me that Enzo.” And his joyful singing (best exemplified on Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful”) allowed rap songs to be poolside anthems.
But with his immense rise in fame, Pharrell finds himself in a new role, one that longtime fans may find disconcerting. He’s the new Quincy Jones, the most in demand producer in the world with a following comprised of youth and old folks alike. Can he really dip his toes back into the world of cocaine rap?
Judging by this feature on Major Lazer’s recently released “Aerosol Can,” the answer is unequivocally yes. Diplo’s trendsetting continues with an aggressively simple beat that fits with his Major Lazer project’s dancehall leanings; tight, tuned up toms layered with a bubble-bass give Pharrell an avenue to show off his word wizardry in a way he hasn’t on his “pop” tracks.
And make no mistake, this is coke rap at its most referential. Along with references to reggae legend Eek-A-Mouse, Mario Kart, Mulan and fancy cars, Pharrell drops lines like:
“Look around, everybody on Sinatra I ain’t talking bout this shit they call Coke and vodka I’m talking bout this shit you short and go ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.”
You know, in case you weren’t sure.
This track is HYPE. Like, is it tonight yet? I’m tryna get out on the floor and dance up in someone’s grill, to get strobe-blind and make some mistakes. Songs like this are the drug.