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Pharrell Williams Biography

Home > Music > W > Williams, Pharrell > Biography

Birth Name: Pharrell Williams
Born: 1973/04/05
Birth Place: Virginia Beach, Virginia
Years Active: 1992–present
Genres: Hip Hop, Rock, Pop, Funk, R&B

Pharrell (born Pharrell Williams, April 5, 1973) is an American rapper, singer, record producer, composer and fashion designer. Williams and Chad Hugo make up the record production duo The Neptunes, producing hip hop and R&B music. He is also the lead vocalist and drummer of hip-hop band N.E.R.D, which he formed with Hugo and childhood friends Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge.

In the 1990s The Neptunes entered a high school talent show where they were discovered by record producer Teddy Riley. After graduating from high school, the group signed with Riley.

Williams went on to write a verse for Wreckx-N-Effect's 1992 hit “Rump Shaker.” That same year, he also performed a small rap solo on SWV's hit, “Right Here (UK Remix).” In 1994, Hugo and Williams had established themselves as a production duo under their old name The Neptunes, and produced “Tonight's The Night” from Blackstreet's self-titled album.

Over the next three years they continued to produce occasionally. Some of the results had little resemblance to The Neptunes sound of today. However, the distinctive “Neptunes sound,” came to forefront on N.O.R.E.'s “Superthug” in 1998, reaching #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart, and gaining them widespread attention for the first time.

In 1999, a friend introduced Pharrell to Kelis, which lead to his producing her first album “Kaleidoscope.” At this point The Neptunes were gaining a wide fanbase and audience. In 2001, The Neptunes produced Britney Spears' single, “I'm a Slave 4 U” gaining their first worldwide #1 hit single. The same year, N.E.R.D, consisting of Williams, Hugo and Haley, released their first album, “In Search of...” The album sounded very much like their previous production work; the group decided that they should make their work as N.E.R.D sound different, and re-recorded the album with the rock band Spymob.

In 2002 their re-produced album was released worldwide, and The Neptunes reached #1 in the U.S. with Nelly's single, “Hot in Herre.” In August of the same year, The Neptunes produced debut Clipse album “Lord Willin'” was issued in August 2002. The album entered at #1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and at #4 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, fueled by the Billboard Hot 100 Top 40 singles, “Grindin'” and “When the Last Time.”

Also in 2002, “Justified,” Justin Timberlake’s debut studio album, was released with half of the songs produced by The Neptunes.

The Neptunes released a self-credited album called “The Neptunes Present... Clones” in 2003, with songs and remixes from various artists. This topped the Billboard 200 Albums chart. The Neptunes and Williams then connected with Jay-Z, producing several hit singles for him and two tracks on his 2003 “The Black Album.”

A survey in August 2003 found The Neptunes produced almost 20 percent of songs played on British radio at the time, a survey in the U.S. had them at 43 percent. The same year, The Neptunes remixed the Daft Punk song “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” for the duo's poorly-received remix album “Daft Club.” The track also had a brief rap section performed by Williams.

N.E.R.D's second funk rock-oriented album, “Fly or Die,” was released in March 2004. Williams' rock credentials were further bolstered by his appearance at the 2004 Grammy Awards, performing The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" on drums with Sting, Dave Matthews, and Vince Gill. Williams received two Grammy Awards that night, one for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, and another for Best Pop Vocal Album for his work on Justin Timberlake's hit album “Justified.”

In 2005, Williams issued the opening single from his first solo album “In My Mind,” “Can I Have It Like That” featuring Gwen Stefani. The single did poorly in the U.S., reaching only #48. It fared better in the U.K., reaching #3. In 2006, The Neptunes produced Clipse's second album “Hell Hath No Fury.” Most critics labeled the album Williams's best production in years, and put the duo back in the charts. In April 2008, Madonna released her eleventh album, “Hard Candy,” with vocals from Williams and production from The Neptunes on several tracks. In late 2009, Williams also started working with the rapper Game for his fourth studio album, “The R.E.D. Album.”