Pharrel Williams on his love of go-go, punk clubs, and Lenny Kravitz
Read the full transcript to the 18th episode of The FADER Uncovered.
Pharrel Williams on his love of go-go, punk clubs, and Lenny Kravitz

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At the end of part one, we touched on a Kanye quote that really struck me when he referred to the Pharrell and Neptunes sound as "gospel punk." I even took to the keys to dissect the chord sequences of tunes like "Drop It Like It's Hot" and "You Don't Have To Call," just to show how gospel-influenced they are. But the punk side of things cannot be overlooked either. Punk can be a lot of things, attitude, aggression, feel, but in the case of the Neptunes, it's musical and it's a real signature of their sound. The half step is a musical term for when you go up one note on the chromatic scale. When you do it in single notes, it sort of sounds like Jaws. When you play it in chords, it sounds like punk. It's atonal, it's non-musical, yet somehow miraculously the Neptunes managed to make it the foundation of some of the biggest pop records of all time. "Hella Good," Justin Timberlake, "Pass the Courvoisier," "Lap Dance."

In fact, I don't think anyone else has ever managed to make so much out of so little, to somehow craft iconic melodies, beats, and hooks over such nasty, I mean that in a good way, punk influenced chords structures. It's what made their music actually so damn tough, this ballsy atonality that laid the foundation for these pop bangers. I really have no idea what inspired it, but I've always been so impressed by it. I thought I might venture the theory that it had something to do with Chad and Pharrell's close proximity to the DC area and the 9:30 Club, essentially the Mecca of East Coast punk music. So let us venture in right there.


Mark Ronson: I had never really thought about that and I guess because I'm just thinking of that Kanye quote, but the punk part, I had never thought, because I obviously DC is thought of as this Mecca for Punk and DC is pretty close to Virginia Beach and stuff. Was any of that punk, 9:30 Club type stuff an influence on you? Or did it filter down somehow?

Pharrell Williams: Dude, the funny thing is the 9:30 Club was a place where people like Bad Brains would play, no bullshit, and then Trouble Funk would play the next night.

Wow. Wow.

Literally, when you hear them saying, "We're going drop the bomb on the white boy crew, drop the bomb, drop the bomb. We going to drop the bomb, let know that." They're talking about the punk guys.

Right, right.

Isn't that crazy?

That is crazy.

By the way, to anybody that's listening that has never heard of Trouble Funk, you have to hear "Drop the Bomb." It's the most alien, space, African, really from another fucking planet genius, really fucking genius, genius, genius, shit ever. Meanwhile, Bad Brains is fucking... H.R. and those guys are fucking genius. That whole world.

It's crazy actually when you say it, when you talk about Trouble Funk and go-go and stuff. Obviously, I hear the influence and stuff that you've done. Certain people, I guess Wale, people from DC have tried to champion it, but I don't know if there's ever been a music that's so vibrant in this one place that just doesn't seem to travel out. Is it because it's such a specific rhythm or it's about the club or the venue or the dancing?

Listen, I've never been able to crack the case. Okay, "Bustin' Loose" really was a big record.

Right, true.

That was a legitimate big record. That was huge. Shout to Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers. There was another record. I think his name is DJ Kool. Ooh, ah, ooh, ah, ah, ooh...

Oh yeah, of course.

That was big.

Right, DJ Kool.

"Let Me Clear My Throat," which wasn't really go-go, but it was still him. We got to give it to him. He had one called "The Water Dance" that was pretty big too. This ain't the water. Well, "The Water Dance" was a big one.


Then there was Da' Butt with "E.U." I mean, we look at it a little different, you know what I'm saying? But you got to give it its credit and Spike Lee, thank you to him for pushing that record. But I mean, and it's changed and evolved so much since then. Wale, I don't know, man, this might have been eight years ago, nine years ago, 10 years ago. Wale, we went to DC. I don't know what we were out there for, but I'll never forget him, Stephen Hill, and they took us to, I forget what club this was, but TCB was there and they played this record called "Bait," and oh my goodness. Have you ever heard that record?

No, I don't know this record.

Oh man. It's old now, but you got to listen to it. The name of the group is called TCB, the song is called "Bait." It's still... I listen to it probably once a year just because I want my mind to be blown. You know what? Honestly, it's like watching Avatar. "Bait" should have been playing on Pandora. When you saw the people, you need to see fucking... It's fucking mind...

I'm going to check it out as soon we get off.

It's so good.

That's amazing. Yeah. Wale, I've heard him, but TCB, he obviously mentions it a lot. Okay. So if we could get into the N.E.R.D stuff now, because this was, I guess, the same transition period. Was there always... There was always going to be a band or was N,E.R.D. even first the group concept and then the Neptunes takeoff? I'm not sure about the exact chronology there.

Well, we were the Neptunes as a group and then Chad and I were the producers of the group. Then we had a deal, we were signed to... Teddy [Riley] got us a deal. We were signed to Michael Jackson, MJJ Records.

Wow. I didn't know that.

Yeah. Then we lost the deal and then we signed it. It just never... Nothing really happened after that. We were waiting around and me being young, Aries, pompous, and arrogant, I shot off at the mouth. So we parted ways. It was all good. I didn't think anything... I didn't know what was going to happen. I was young and impatient and we were the Neptunes. At that point, I had written Teddy's verse for "Rump Shaker" and only written. I didn't produce it. People think I produced it, but I didn't. I had only written his verse on "Rump Shaker," and Chad and I produced "Tonight's the Night" for Blackstreet, but that was it. We didn't think anything else was going to happen. So on the side, we were still producing, but still using the name Neptunes. We were producing songs. Finally, when we got an opportunity, because we were going around, shopping us as a group. It just wasn't happening.

I was eccentric and a clear fucking weirdo it at that time. So people didn't really understand what was walking in their office or what they were listening to because it was so fucking bizarre in comparison to the conveyor belt and the point of entry at that time was just so narrow. So when Keith from Virgin who had signed Kelis, approached us and he was like, "You guys should make an album." I was like, "What?" He was like, "Yeah, you make an album." At that point, we were already making records for people. You know what I'm saying? Like N.O.R.E. and... So we didn't want to disturb what we had already become as producers, which was just like the Neptunes. So then that's when we came up with No One Ever Really Dies because I wanted to make the word nerd cool. Even though no one is two words.

Right. No-Erd. That's wild that they said that because you weren't, especially, even on the hooks yet, "Got Your Money," N.O.R.E. kind of things. No one even knew you were a singer or a natural front man. Did Keith have some idea that you had that in you? Or he would just love the music and just believed in the group?

Yeah, he got it. He got it. He got it. So did Ashley and Ray.

Yeah. That was an amazing time, that Virgin Records, it was... I feel like it was the last thing before the bottom fell out of the industry, before we slowly got it back. But it was like there were these English label heads that were just signed cool leftfield shit that also just happened to be the biggest shit, whether it was Blur, Spice Girls, smashing internationally. They had you guys. I had made that record for Nikka Costa. Their parties around Grammy times were the most excessive, wild shit because that was their whole thing, like, "Here, you need a million dollars? You need a million dollars? Nellee Hooper, you need a million dollars?" That was kind of a very, very special, maybe never happen again era. But they did, at the end of the day, with people like Keith and Ashley, find great shit, and like you, they were way ahead of the curve the way they saw the N.E.R.D. stuff.

Right, really saw it. Really, really, really saw it. It was insane. That whole Virgin records roster, we were so blessed to be a part of that.


My favorite episode of The Simpsons is in the ninth season when the Simpsons visit New York City. In one scene, Bart happens by accident by the office of Mad Magazine, and very excitedly asked the receptionist if he can have a peek inside to which she says, "Kid, I know you probably think there's some wacky amazing stuff going on back there, but really it's just an office. There's nothing to see." Just at that moment, as he's about to turn and walk off dejectedly, the door cracks open for a moment and he sees Alfred E. Neuman, Spy Versus Spy, and all the other wacky, amazing Mad Magazine shit you could dream of. That's pretty much how I felt going up to record company offices in the late nineties. As a DJ, you had to go around these record labels to pick up promotional copies of the latest 12 inches, the hot singles that weren't in the store yet.

Just going up to the old Bad Boy office, I once got on the elevator, pressed the button, and just as the door was about to close, Biggie and Faith stepped in. I stood there, of course, frozen in complete awe. Another time also at Bad Boy, I was waiting in reception and I got a peek through the main door, Bart style, and caught a glimpse of Puffy in a big office, getting a haircut. All these things I saw in my early twenties at these labels made them seem larger than life, and they were. All these labels had identities, Tommy Boy, Bad Boy, Loud Records. They were exciting. Unlike these labels that were all indies, Virgin Records was a major label, but with the spirit of an indie. Sure, there were tons of desks and cubicles, but everyone who worked there was super cool and laid back, plus because most of the money behind the label was in the UK, a lot of the higher ups were English and cool and maybe a little more music-centric.

I mean, think of the roster at the time. It was Chemical Brothers, Soul II Soul, Spice Girls, Daft Punk, Janet, Massive Attack, D'Angelo, Blur, Lenny Kravitz, more on him shortly, plus in true Brit fashion, when it came to partying, they liked to cane it. Their Grammy parties were epic. The stuff of legend. I used to be up there hanging in those offices because my first real production gig was co-producing the debut album of Virgin artist, Nikka Costa. It was fun times, the last days of Rome almost because pretty soon file sharing would decimate all these labels. People would be fired. The mood went dour and there was no more crazy money for the fun times. But I am very lucky I got to experience that time, that kind of spark and flash and creativity that could foster a group like Chad and Pharrell's N.E.R.D. Now, a quick break.

Janet was there, D'Angelo was there.


Lenny Kravitz was there.

Yeah. Yeah.

It was crazy. Daft Punk.

Daft Punk, fuck, of course. I was thinking about Lenny, because he's on a couple of the tracks on that N.E.R.D. record. I was like, "Here's a guy..." Listen, he doesn't need me telling him about anything. He's got plenty of rockstar excess and money and a claim and sales and this thing but, "Here's a guy that I think doesn't get his full credit or gets written off a little bit," because before the Dap-Kings, before what we did with the Amy, all this stuff, he had found a way to make drums and recordings sound raw as fuck, like the early seventies, and was doing it cool as fuck in '86 or '87 or whatever. For some reason, I just feel like he doesn't quite get the credit he deserves, Lenny.

No, he doesn't because... Well, first of all, he's a brilliant Gemini and his songs and his style, I think most people don't really... They probably don't have the bandwidth for all the stuff that he deserves. That's a compliment to him. All the credit that he deserves, most people don't really have the bandwidth. You've got to be a super fan to really, really, really give that man all of his flowers. He could play every instrument, wrote all those songs, continues to write great songs, an amazing touring act. I mean his live, going to a Lenny concert is a whole other experience for people. He's been doing it for years and everything that he did, it was just always the best shit.

Yeah. "Are You Gonna Go My Way" is maybe one of the most unconventional of pop hits because it's just like a stomping, fucking rock song. His riffs and his vocals, all that shit. No, it was really, really fucking special.

And he is a Black man.

Right, yes.

Right? When you think about where rock and roll really comes from, most people really don't know where it comes from. They don't know that those are Black artists.

That's true.

A lot of their records were being taken and re-recorded. It's virtually reversed all this time and then here he comes and he's the real thing. He shreds when he plays.

Yeah, yeah.

That's super... It's wild. He did it, not once or twice and not a couple times, he just consistently did it. That's big bro.

Yeah. I saw him in concert two or three years ago at some giant German festival or somewhere in the middle of Europe when you're just looking at a field and it's like he's playing to 50,000 people and just what he is internationally is the thing is obviously so potent and you see it when you go around the world, what he means to people. But also just it just fucking rocks. I don't know if German people, maybe it was Dutch, but it was a sea 50,000 white faces. But they were losing their mind for this man who played all these records they love.

Yes, yes. He's he really is the king to me.

So N.E.R.D, the first record, you've talked about it a lot. It was originally more of an electronic record and then you decided to cut it with this band. Obviously, because of that, it did end up with more of a rock-leaning energy because it was live. What was the reason? Did you not like the first version or was it not doing what you wanted it to do?

Because KROQ wouldn't play our music.

Was it literally that?


Oh, you took the record. It was finished and you were actually taking it around to market it.



They were like, "Yo, this is like a..." I don't know. I forget what they called it. It's not rock and roll at all. I'm like, "All right." So me being... And it was crazy, but Ashley and Ray were crazy enough to say, "Okay, here's the budget, go do it."


It ended up paying off.

It sure did. But did you know that you needed to be marketed to as a KROQ? You were like, "Okay, we're not going to get on the Hot 97s of the world. We are a left leaning act. So we actually need..." You knew that that was the audience, all college, KROQ, when you were making that record.

Yes. We knew that we didn't have a shot and we tried. We had a "She Wants to Move" remix that played on Hot 97. People were being supportive. They would've been way more supportive today, but again, everything, it was all siloed, you know what I'm saying?

Yeah. Yeah.

But now it's different. Now's it's different.

I used to love playing "Run to the Sun," because even the other records, things can only get better. I guess those were a slightly more R&B or less aggressive records, but "Run to the Sun," play that out of keep rising to the top or something. That was in that perfect zone of classic R&B in my set at that point.

Thank you.

So when that record comes out and you suddenly have all this on a much smaller level, I made my first record for Elektra. All I'm thinking about is, "I want to have a hit in New York in the clubs because that's where I live and that's the only place I go and this is my world, this tiny area." So when it didn't do well at all in New York and it started to really blow up in England and Japan and these places, it blew my mind a little bit because I was like, "Wait. Here are these places I wasn't even thinking about when I made this record, but I love these places and these places have cool music tastes and I love it. I'm enjoying this, that someone gets and appreciates it." What was the feeling with the N.E.R.D. record when it came out and you definitely you had that fucking crazy U.K., Japan, all this international thing, was it kind of exciting?

It was very exciting because they treated us different. They totally got it, totally got it. Asia, Europe, they got us. That's when my love affair for Asia started.

Yeah. There's something about England and I always think about it, a smaller country, there's one radio station, certainly at that time, Zane Lowe plays your record at 9:00 PM and the whole country hears it. But there's also something... It's a little less genre-specific. Do you know what I mean? You could have "Lap Dance," you could have "Rock Star," people aren't looking at you going, "We don't know where to put this."

Yeah, no, because they just like different shit.

Then it's funny you say that because as a DJ, because I really didn't have my first hit records as a producer until much later. So I always say of myself in terms of the Neptune stuff as what I played and every record, it's funny you say "She Wants to Move" didn't feel like a, whatever, a hip-hop record or a Hot 97 record. But I felt like it was. I felt like those songs went really off in clubs. I felt like with every N.E.R.D. record, there was always one song that at least that DJs couldn't wait to get their hands on. Everyone knows that was definitely more embracing the Baltimore club shit. Then I forgot fucking... I still play "Lemon." Literally, three nights ago. It's so crazy to think that that was a 2017 N.E.R.D. record because yeah, I don't know why. It just feels fucking fresh. I mean, it's only four years ago.



I was already a big, big fan of the Neptunes' electronic sound. So I wasn't quite sure what to think when I first heard the N.E.R.D. record with the live drums. The drums were also kind of big and roomy, rocky even. They weren't break beat type hip-hop drums. Also, being someone who came from a rock background myself, playing in bands, who had then got into hip-hop, I was hypersensitive to people putting big rock guitars and drums over hip-hop records, which was a bit of a trend of the time. You had Diddy and Jimmy Page and the "Benjamisn" rock remix with Dave Grohl. If it wasn't right, it could be whack. But with N.E.R.D., it was so unexpected and not too perfect. So it was also endearing. Now, listening to the original N.E.R.D. record without the live drums, it sounds kind of crazy, like it was definitely always supposed to be live. "Rock Star" loses all the wallop of the almost over now, almost over now part and even the lovely R&B tunes like "Run to the Sun" and "Things Are Getting Better" lose the charm and quirkiness.

So even if the reason for recording all of these guitars and drums was at the request of the label wanting them to get on radio, it was a good thing if you consider the end result. For every 50 dumb record company ideas, there can be a good one. I mean, there are A&R people that I love and trust and always enjoy going to for their feedback. Shout out to Peter Edge. You can incorporate their opinions, but you still have to execute your own vision at the end of the day.

Okay. So this is actually a beautiful quote that you said. I'm not going to read the whole thing, but I'll paraphrase, in the Kanye interview as well, and you said, you're talking about I think maybe longevity in general, and you said, "What we're doing is... The industry makes you think that there's a certain age that you have, and that's the only age parentheses bracket that you have to really smash it, and after that, play it out, whatever it is, your ideas aren't valid."

And you said, "We're just fishermen, really casting our net out to sea and sometimes something comes back and sometimes things don't." I think that that's a little modest, because I don't think all fishermen are maybe created equal, but I also think that you have to have that wherewithal impatience to withstand those moments. Because I mean, I feel like your longevity is just because of those things. You wait it out and then you smash it for a thing and then you'll make some cool shit that'll be left field and then you'll smash it again. I feel like maybe most people, maybe they don't have confidence to come back or just once you're done, people stop checking for you.

Well, I don't like to get in the way. I like to pop up, like you say, disrupt the whole shit and then, poof, be gone and just do that periodically. I would do it on a more consistent basis if I felt like the matrix could handle it, but I don't like wasting things. So I like to go, "Okay, is it quiet?" You know what I mean?


Then poof, I'm gone.

I do too.

Because I don't like to get in the way.

Right. I think that there's something... It is weird and obviously Quincy is as much of a disruptor and an outlier just because he's from a generation we look up to and revere and seems classic. It doesn't mean that he wasn't wildly original when he came out. But I guess he was 44, 45 when he made Thriller. I think in pop music, you're allowed to be older, Max Martin, you just... And rock music and these things, Mutt Lange, these people that are older, but hip-hop and R&B, even though it really is essentially pop music at this point, it is so age-centric or something. Is there a mentality, obviously your thing is ageless any way. I feel like you still obviously keep yourself excited and change tempos and sounds and palettes and things like that. But why do you think hip-hop is almost like dog years? You have such a shorter space to make it? Think of the great producers who have come up. I'm not going to name names since we're alongside you on those big records, Jay, whoever, it's very unforgiving in that way.

Because rap music is very connected to the time. It's very connected to that. So depending on where you are when you're making that music, where you are in your life, and what your age is at a certain point, you just evolve and you either evolve with it and lead it, but at a certain point, you take your eye off it for one second and the next thing you know, you're chasing for the rest of your life and kids can hear that.


They can hear when you're chasing. They can hear when you don't really live it and you ain't really in it like that, You know what I'm saying? You know who is a scary, scary, scary guy when it comes to this shit? It's Lil John. Lil John did "Turn Down for What." You hear him on there, so you're like, "Okay, cool." But you have got to understand how long he's been doing this shit. People don't realize Lil John did "Blow the Whistle."

I did not know that.

Leave him alone. He's different. He's one of the ones. You know who else is timeless like that? T-Pain. Timeless. T-Pain not only can sing his ass off, but he be producing too and writing. Literally, he got that record with Kehlani. I mean, just one of many. Certain people, when they really understand that about themselves, they don't trip, they just do it. They just make music. If you find out, you find out. Their royalty statements, definitely, are very clear about it. But yeah, man, and there's a couple. There's a couple of people who are like that and just really, you see Ye's still producing. Honestly, if you look at his last album, he got it, not still got it, but he got it. It ain't no still. He really got it. He really knows how to put that work in and really go in that diamond mine and bring out raw material. He knows how to do that. I think it's just, when you get out of it, that's when you're in trouble. Because then when you want to get back to, you chasing after it.

Now, just getting out of it just means getting out of the zeitgeist so you're not in touch or you just actually stop practicing your art every day?

Yeah. You got to stay in and experimenting. You have to stay in and experiment every day. If not every day, but whatever you're speed is. Some people work a couple times a week. I don't know. For me, it's every day.

I've walked into the studio once or twice when you've been working. I'm always... You really are on it. You're there chopping the fucking kicks and snares and putting it around like I would expect you to be. I've always had this theory, like I wonder if there's something about that that is a young, there's a part of a younger person's brain, like there's something not to equate it with video games, but the part that loves being in front of a fucking MPC chopping up drums, truncating a snare, all these things. Is there also, I've always wondered if there's something about that that is partly, I don't want to say young man's game because it could be young man, young women, whoever, but there's something in that part of the brain to keep doing it. You're sort of defying.

Could be. Could be that that's what it is. I think, for me, I'm more of a pattern sleuth and chord progression sleuth than I am anything else. I love that. That's what still warms my soul.

I have this theory. I think arguably you, Kanye, Andre, well OutKast, let's be fair, are probably the three most influential... This is my thoughts. I can't really say this is an absolute, but you, Ye, Andre, Big Boi have this special place. So I think a lot of anything that's happened, that's been progressive in music, you with Chad, has been this filter down that's really enveloped all of music and just changed how shit is. In some ways, you've all cited Q-Tip as your favorite at some point in time. We're not literally turning it, although I love that time when Q-Tip was on your show. It was a really lovely thing when he was on your Apple show, but there's something wild, isn't there? Isn't it wild that the three, that sort of Mount Rushmore of now, and then there's Tip above it, who maybe has not had the same, I don't even want to say success because that's not true. Everybody who knows loves his shit, but maybe just the commercial, whatever it is. But Tip is, is he Zeus?

Tip is Zeus.

Yeah. It's kind of crazy when the three most important all say, "That's our guy."

Nah, 100%. Ain't no getting around it. I'm sorry. That man made lyrics to go.

There's a funny moment when Q-Tip is the guest on Pharrell's Other Tone radio show and Pharrell is giving Q-Tip his due and really praising him in a very genuine way and Tip, being very modest and a gracious guest, but not really one for being fawned over says something to the effect of, "Well, if I'm the genius, then why does my bank account look the way it does and yours looks the way that it does?" He's playfully teasing Pharrell, but it's also an interesting point. Q-Tip has sold millions of records and is incredibly celebrated, but he also came in an early era where slightly left field, more musical hip-hop was not guaranteed the worldwide multi-platinum status.

What he did do was break the game open for those who followed him by the sheer brilliance of his output and just the fucking Q-Tipness of it all inspired and influenced some of the most brilliant from the next gen. So when one of your faves, be it Kanye, Andre, or Pharrell says, "This guy's the GOAT," the one who changed their life, well isn't he the guy then? Don't all roads somehow lead back there? I mean, throw on any of the first three Tribe records or the last one, they're classic, timeless, mind-expanding, soul-repairing albums. Pharrell felt the very same way.

Him and Ali, listen, that man made "Bonita Applebum". I'm sorry. To anyone that's never listened to that song, please go change your life, go listen to that song and your life will change because you'll be like, "What am I listening to?" I mean, the synesthesia was on line trillion when I first heard that, nine trillion, yellows, greens, and pinks. I still see those colors today when I hear that song.


I want to just say this one more time. I'm so grateful. Obviously, I'm grateful to God first and foremost, but I'm so grateful to Q-Tip because when I was a kid, I used to always listen to music and there were certain sections of a song that I really liked and I didn't know what a bridge was. That wasn't common vernacular. We weren't walking around in Atlantis Apartments talking about bridges and shit or changes or hooks. I didn't know any of the music industry or, like I said, vernacular, but come to find out, it was the bridges that I always loved. Stevie Wonder bridges, Earth, Wind & Fire changes and stuff. When I first heard "Bonita Applebum," I was sure that he had found that part and made it go over and over again. I didn't even know what looping was. All I knew is that I spent every day listening to that on a Sony CD Walkman, by the way. Never, ever dreaming that I would ever have a licensing agreement with Sony like I do now.

Not even knowing that they even had a label, just completely just green to the whole situation. When I heard that song, I remember thinking how subliminal I felt like the song was because I literally would be in a trance, a very light trance, of nothing could disturb me. That feeling is what made me really, really, really fall in love beyond my natural love for music and appreciation for music. It made me want to understand how that was happening. That's what started me on my journey for making music because I was like, "What in the fuck have these guys done? What are they doing and why does it make me do this? Why does it make me feel this way?" And every girl...

How old were you?

I want to say 13, 14 years old. I might have been 14, 15. I remember thinking, "I don't know what this is, but this is amazing and literally any girlfriend that I'm dating has to listen to this song with me on the fucking phone and this is the way it's going down. This is what's happening." Those guys created a whole world of Black, essentially Black beatniks. So anyways, thank you. Thank you for your time.

Hell yeah. It's funny you said about the girlfriend thing because my wife now, when she looks at me every now and then she'll just be like... She's a little younger than me. So I take for granted that she would know any of this stuff and she just goes, "Do I love you? Do I adore you?" It makes me love her even more that we share this thing as well of that same language and song. It's amazing.

Ah, come on. It doesn't get any better than that. I mean, and by the way, "Footprints," man, fucking "Footprints."

I know.

When I heard that, that to me was like dark blue and purple, "Footprints" was like, "What the fuck? First of all, where did they find that from?" Come to find out, it's Donald Byrd, but what made them when you hear it on loop, I'm like, "You guys..." People can... I don't know. You could damn near get a fucking operation without any kind of anesthesia if you just listen to that fucking song.

I remember playing that at a Q-Tip party, DJing and it was like, obviously already the vibrant era. He came up to me in the booth, he's like, "Yo, do you mind stop playing my shit from before '91?" Because I think in this sweet way, it was just like, all right, he sounds super young to him or something. But I remember playing "Footprints" and him coming up and being like, "Dude."

I hate when he does that. He doesn't understand you got to just let us appreciate. One day in my lifetime, one day in my lifetime, there's 10 songs that I feel like I got to make something that makes me feel like that and that's one of them. One day, I will. One day, I'll be good enough, one day.

I think you probably made some, but certainly who did that to other people, definitely.

No, no, no. I'm telling you "Footprints" is one of them ones, but listen, thank you man. Appreciate you.

Of course. No, thanks for doing this. It's great. I hope to see you sometime soon and look forward to more music.

Same here, and you as well. Also, thank you to the FADER, it's like Chad and I's first cover, ever.


We're grateful.

Amazing cover. Great.

All right, bro.

"Footprints" is a really special record starting with a one bar loop of the Sir Duke horn line, with this weird stomp under it into the Donald Byrd "Think Twice" loop, and then the Public Enemy drums come in on the verse. It's layered and soulful and eccentric in a way that would definitely blow your mind as a 14-year-old in a bedroom in Virginia. I also think Pharrell is being a little too modest when he says he hasn't made anything that extraordinary. As a member of the Neptunes and as a soloist, he's made generational records, records that have rocked the rawest underground clubs that somehow will also get your grandma up at a wedding. He's pushed everything forward and we live in a better world because of his music. So salute Pharrell, take me out with the FADER.

Pharrel Williams on his love of go-go, punk clubs, and Lenny Kravitz