Pharrell finds freedom in N.E.R.D.

N.E.R.D. was never meant to make or break Pharrell Williams. Sure, two of the band’s first two albums have sold gold, 2002’s “In Search Of…” and 2004’s “Fly or Die,” but that pales in comparison to the multiplatinum success the Neptunes have reached by producing for stars like Jay-Z, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake.
Meanwhile, N.E.R.D’s last two LPs, “Seeing Sounds” and “Nothing,” haven’t come close to reaching gold, but the group now arguably reaches a wider audience than it did in its early years. So how exactly does N.E.R.D measure success these days?
“I would say for me, we did ‘The Tonight Show With Jay Leno’ [a while] ago—everybody in the audience, they seemed like they were engaged, but it was one person in the middle of the audience who was going the f**k off,” Shay told BET.com. “I was just like ‘wow.’ I don’t know if she knew about N.E.R.D prior to our performance, but whatever it is, she’s feeling it and that‘s what keeps it going.”
While the Neptunes have taken part in their share of formulaic hits over the years, N.E.R.D prides itself on pushing the envelope. Pharrell is thankful that being safer with the Neptunes has earned him the freedom to be edgier with N.E.R.D.
“At this point N.E.R.D. has just become this giant traveling art show,” Pharrell told BET.com. “We have just been, you know, making what it is that we wanted to make, and we had a label that would support it, but there’s not a lot of people that have that freedom. I mean, definitely now it’s time to go pay the bills—gotta put out some hip-hop, but there’s not a lot of understanding chairmans out there that wanna support the art form. “


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