The Man Of The Moment Pharrell Defines What Being Black Is In GQ

| March 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

Photograph by Paola Kudacki for GQ

Pharrell Williams ,wearing his now famous grammy hat took home 4 grammys ,including producer of the year. It seems that after 20 years of making hits for other people HE has become THAT GUY. He covers GQ for April 2014 and may well be the most beloved man in the country at the moment.

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Pharrell’s new album G.I.R.L. is number two in the country this week just behind his friend Rick Ross’s album Mastermind. The album in #1 in 72 other countries around the world.

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GQ: Originally G I R L was going to come out in May. Why did you end up moving up the release to March 3?

Because Columbia just was like, “You’re almost done with it; you’re doing the Oscars. There’s almost a billion people watching: Why not give it to them then?” I was like, “Alright, cool.”

You were nominated for an Oscar that night, but didn’t win. How badly did you want it?

Well, trust me: when they read the results, my face was…frozen. But then I thought about it, and I just decided just to…let it go.

How do you feel about that song?
That song?

“Let It Go”—you just said it.

How do you feel about the song?

I thought “Happy” would’ve been a more interesting choice.

Is it going to be here for ten years—that song from Frozen?

Seems like that happens a lot with that particular Oscar category.
Well, I asked you what your opinion was, and you’re entitled to it, and I hope you print it. Did you like my answer?

I thought your answer was great.
My face was frozen, but I just decided to—

Oh, I got it.
—I just decided to let it go.

This is your second solo record, after 2006’s In My Mind—did this one feel different?

Way different. In My Mind was just purpose-oriented toward, like, competing and being like my peers—the Jays and the Puffs of the world, who make great music. But their purposes and their intentions are just completely different than what I have discovered in myself that I wanted to achieve in this one. So it makes it easier to sing about, because I don’t gotta sing about myself. Jay’s good at that. He’s great at it. I began to sound so self-serving and so self-satisfied, whereas he can do it and make you feel inspirational about who he is and what his intention is.

In retrospect, were you unhappy back then?

Of course. Because I felt like I had amassed this big body of work, most—not all—but most of which was just about self-aggrandizement, and I wasn’t proud of it. So I couldn’t be proud of the money that I had; I couldn’t be proud of all the stuff that I had. I was thankful, but what did it mean? What did I do? And at this point, where I came from, I’m just throwing it in that kid’s face, instead of saying, “Look at all the fish I have, and look how much we’re going to eat.” It should’ve been—at least a part of it—teaching them how to fish. That’s why you gotta give it to Jay, because he’s been talking to—you know, he’s been telling everybody: “If I did it, you could do it, too.” So I did a little bit of that, but I was so occupied with, like, the competitive spirit—and not in the right way.

Competitive with whom?

For real? Nobody. But in my mind, you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t competing, you know? You only can compete with yourself.

How do you let go of that competitiveness?

Because I think it’s so much more interesting to go inward, to experience the outer space that was built for you.

Can we hear more about the outer space that was built for you?

The aether. The ultimate connection between time and space is time and space. Without time, there is no measurement of space. Without space, there is no measurement of time. We need them both to coexist. And the theory of everything is that everything exists at the same time, is connected. So we’re connected. Are we connected physically now? No. But are we physically connected in this moment? Yes. When you look back in this memory, the part of this fabric: yes! So there’s a lot of allusion that just goes over people’s heads, so they lose the importance of certain aspects.

I’m curious why that’s something you could know now but not, say, in 2004, or when your first record came out, in 2006.

No, because in 2004, I was still used to making money, going, “Whoa.” I mean, it’s understandable—2004, you know, I was 31 years old. I didn’t know no better. I’m about to be 41, so I understand the value of life. The value of life is the value of life, not “life” the word itself. It’s the definition. It’s where all the life is. Life is about definitions, not about the words. Words are just incantations.

In retrospect, how long did you feel lost?

I don’t know. I think that “Rumpshaker” came out in like the end of ’92.

So basically you’re talking about fifteen years of not knowing any better—practically your entire career.

When you say that it makes me reconsider your whole catalog before G I R L. It makes me wonder if all that music is itself unhappy.
Yeah, but I didn’t know what happiness was. My definition of happiness was based on what my peers quantified as happiness: boats—you know, material stuff. But then I realized I had a platform; I would meet kids, and meet girls and women who would always point out the inspirational stuff. They would always talk about those songs. I’ll never forget: There was this girl that told me her brother had died, and he was a huge N.E.R.D. fan, and he got in a car crash. When they looked in the car, the song that was playing was “Run to the Sun.” That scarred me—in a healing way. Because “Run to the Sun” was huge for me with my grandmother. You know, you hear the intention in that.

But that’s what people would come up and talk about, those inspirational things more than anything else. Sure, sometimes it’d be like, “Yo, man, that beat on ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’!” or “That ‘Grindin” beat!” or “I Just Wanna Love U!”—whatever. But mostly, people would emote about those records that had substance and purpose and intention: I could feel that. Like you just said: After you’ve heard this body of work, you go back and listen to the other one: It feels naked and cold and empty. So I didn’t know. I didn’t know what happiness was.

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About the Author ()

Darnell Moore has extensively studied music and urban culture both academically and professionally for over 20 years. His writings and posts have appeared in many major urban publications. Moore is the founder and creator of Memoirs of an Urban Gentleman. Contact him , or

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