Virginia production team The Neptunes (Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams)
penned Kelis Rogers' Kaleidoscope (1999), which launched the young
singer-rapper as the heiress to
Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott with her feminist-tinged fusion of hip-hop and rhythm'n'blues.
Already among the most successful hip-hop producers, The Neptunes formed N.E.R.D. with rapper Sheldon "Shay" Haley, as their "rock" side-project.
In Search Of (2001), remixed the following year with live instrumentation, and especially Fly or Die (2004) indulged in a neurotic melange of sonic stereotypes and production techniques of metal, funk, soul and pop.
Pharrell Williams debuted solo with In My Mind (2006)
that includes his neo-soul singles
Can I Have It Like That (featuring Gwen Stefani) and Number One (featuring Kanye West).
Seeing Sounds (2008) meandered all over the map but delivered (at least)
a dizzying sonic merry-go-round, while Nothing (2010) had little to offer
that wasn't self-parody.
Williams also composed Robin Thicke's megahit Blurred Lines (2013), reminiscent of Marvin Gaye's Got to Give it Up.
His single Happy (2013), another innocuous pop-soul number, was included on his second album Girl (2014).
N.E.R.D.'s No One Ever Really Dies (2017) excels mainly at
pop-rap hybrids like
1000 (with Future),
Lemon (with Rihanna),
Rollinem 7's (with Andre 3000)
Secret Life of Tigers.
Less convincing (or utterly boring) are the collaborations
Voila (with Gucci Mane),
Don't Don't Do It (with Kendrick Lamar) and
Lifting You (with Ed Sheeran).
The album is redeemed by the
eight-minute psychedelic pastiche Lightning Fire Magic Prayer, one of their career's peaks.
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