Pharrell Williams has been on a winning streak since 2013, but he’s also quick to note his past missteps. In the new issue of GQ magazine, the “Happy” singer speaks candidly about how trying to keep up a with certain Mr. Carter and Mr. Combs put his music on the wrong path.
Pharrell on his ﬁrst solo record in 2006, In My Mind:
“I wrote those songs out of ego. Talking about the money I was making and the by-products of living that lifestyle. What was good about that? What’d you get out of it? There was no purpose. I was so under the wrong impression at that time.”
“The money was too loud. The success was too much. The girls were too beautiful. The jewelry was too shiny. The cars were too fast. The houses were too big. It’s like not knowing how to swim and being thrown in the ocean for the ﬁrst time. Everything is just too crazy. You’re like, ﬂailing and kicking and whatever, and you know what happens, don’t you? You sink. My spirit sank. I just felt like, ‘F-ck, what am I doing?’ ”
“That was just bragging. I wanted to be like Jay. I wanted to be like Puff. Those are their paths. I got my own path. But I didn’t know what my path was. I knew that I was meant to do something different. I knew that I needed to inject purpose in my music.”
The feature story also has Pharrell explaining his new album’s title (“I instantly knew that the name of the album was called G I R L, and the reason why is because women and girls, for the most part, have just been so loyal to me and supported me,” he said), and more.
An interesting point made in the story is how the Neptunes producing NORE’s “SuperThug” took the duo, and in turn Pharrell, to the next level.
Finally, in 1998, the Neptunes write “SuperThug” for the Queens rapper Noreaga. It was the kind of beat that was about to make both Neptunes absurdly wealthy—a psych-rock riff played on a clavichord, disorienting drums, hardly any bass at all. Pharrell remembers walking into a club in Virginia after the song came out, “and it just hit so hard. They were like, ‘Fuck is that?’ I’ll never forget, like, dudes throwing chairs and shit.” He watches a small riot break out to his song and knows he is going to make it.
Read the full story, titled “Pharrell Williams Is Finally Happy,” over at GQ. Pharrell’s new album, G I R L, is out March 3.
Photo: Paola Kudacki / GQ