Pharrell Talks Inspiration, Celebrating Difference and Career Highlights for NPR Conversation
Pharrell has a lauded career with a number of accomplishments but as he graced the stage for a Q&A at Manhattan's Town Hall on Monday (Oct. 26), fans could see that he's still a humble nerd who's just looking to have fun and make music.
The legendary producer, who will be New York University's next Artist-in-Residence, sat down with the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music professor Jason King as part of NPR's "In Conversation" to discuss his 20-year career in front of an auditorium full of students. Kelis' "Milkshake," Nelly's "Hot in Herre" and Snoop Dogg's "Drop it Like It's Hot" are just a few of the hits from his production catalog. Not to mention Clipse's "Grindin," which had a countless number of high school students trying to recreate the beat by clicking their pencils to tabletops over the years.
Event planners amped up the crowd before Pharrell's arrival by playing several of his hit songs like Britney Spears' "I'm a Slave 4 U" and Kendrick Lamar's "Alright." And before he hit the stage, the video for his latest upbeat song, "Freedom," created a sizzling atmosphere of excitement. After the video, King read off a list of achievements the N.E.R.D. member has received like the fact that he holds 10 Grammy Awards. But, Pharrell, who was still backstage, later admitted that he couldn't bear listen to it.
"It just makes me so shy," he said before the audience said "aww" in unison. "It just weirds me out a little bit."
The best part comes about halfway through the interview though as the "Come Get it Bae" singer cringes at the thought of playing the music video for Noreaga's "Superthug" in front of the audience. In the video, Pharrell wears a white bandana tied around his head and a Guayabera shirt -- something he was proud of then, but now, not so much.
He also dropped some advice to music industry hopefuls on trying to break into the Top 100. “You don’t want to get famous being something you’re not,” he said. “You’re going to get tired of wearing that mask.”
Pharrell is certainly the wearer of many hats -- literally and figuratively. While he also works as a coach for NBC's The Voice, he continues to make music, like "Happy" and "Get Lucky" while producing for others like "WTF" for Missy Elliott. But there's still more to come.
At the end, King referred to the legendary producer with the new title to be added to his resume: Professor Pharrell Williams.
During the exchange, the "Frontin" co-producer also talks about why he's the "Mr. Magoo of Music" and how Brazilian women inspired "Milkshake." He also explains why fans can thank Kelis for his fashion sense, why he got fired from McDonald's and the reason why every girl he dated had to love A Tribe Called Quest's "Bonita Applebum." Watch the entire interview below.
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