The cold and gloomy April weather did nothing to dissuade thosedie heart N.E.R.D. fans from skipping class, only to wait anxiouslyoutside of Cramton Auditorium in the pouring rain to meet one ofthe industries’ hottest bands.
On Monday April 12, 2004, Pharell Williams andShay Haley, two thirds of the trio that make up the Neptunes, AKA,N.E.R.D, sat comfortably on a stage before a handful of members ofthe Howard University community. They answered questions about thecurrent state of the music industry, their new album, the creativeaspects that differentiate this clique from their competition andmost interestingly gave attendees the 411 on their personal lives.
The atmosphere was relaxed, with a DJ mixing avariety of Neptune tracks while the prolific pair slouched inchairs. Both group members were fully clothed in BBC (BillionaireBoys Club) attire; a clothing and footwear line, Pharell launchedin the fall of 2003 for people that “wear what they want to wearbecause they want to wear,” as Williams proudly admitted whenquestioned about the motivation behind the collection arose.
The collection, a unique collaboration betweenWilliams and Reebok, takes inspiration from alternative sports likeskateboarding, to create an athletic aesthetic and enjoyable style.
“The line is a little pricey but at the end ofthe day it’s cool because it’s virtually for people that feel thesame way we do,” said Williams.
There were no screaming fans, no aggressivegroupies, just a cluster of N.E.R.D. supporters who seemed hungryto receive live feedback from the revolutionary production possenotorious for crafting hits for acts like Jay Z, Busta Rhymes,Usher, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake, just to name a few.
Howard University sophomore and politicalscience major Amber Bryant shyly stated that she came out to theforum to support the group because she respects their originalityand appreciates the overall idea of the group diverting from makingconventional music.
“I came out to see both Chad and Pharell but Ireally wanted to meet my future husband,” giggled Bryant.
While this on-campus venue had the capacity tohouse more than 1,500 people, 200 seats were barely occupied.However, attendees did enjoy a charismatic discussion from amusical brainchild, whose name is an acronym for No oneEver Really Dies.
“The Neptunes are what we are and N.E.R.D. iswhat we do,” explained Pharell on Monday, when questioned about thesignificance of the group’s alias. “We want to open people’s mindsto different types of music,” Williams went on to say.
The trio, who met over a decade ago in their hometown ofVirginia Beach, VA have been able to preserver in the callousworlds of music, fashion and entertainment, inclusive of so manyruthless individuals who are solely in the business of makingmoney, by staying committed to their creativity and being true towhat they individually and collectively enjoy doing; making musicand being themselves.
While Pharell did most of the talking duringthe general Q&A, Shay opened up and was much more vocal in theprivate press interview held behind stage in the Green Room,following the general forum.
Shay stated during this discussion, “being youand staying focused” is the only real advice he could honestlyoffer to HU students aspiring to make a career in the industry.
“Being open minded, more so than anything anddoing us is our only niche. We always had an ill perception oflife, always appreciated every little thing, down to the minuteaspects of life. Stay focused and don’t let anyone deter you fromwhat you’re trying to achieve!”
While many often attempt to typecast the groupas a hip hop band that creates hip-hop music, Williams made itclear that this was merely a misconception. “We make music for themind, our goal as a group is to elevate people.”
With a strong belief in the afterlife and inthe ideology that, an individuals’ energy can ultimately never bedestroyed, Williams and Haley jointly admitted that theircontinuous success is not premised on radio play, video spins norheavy media attention but rather on their commitment to deliverinnovative music.
“We do it for the glory of music” blurtedPharell shortly before the duo prepared to exit the stage and signautographs and take pictures with fans.
“The group doesn’t get much attention from themedia but we have excellent crowd support and that’s what makes methankful for creating.”
N.E.R.D.’s latest album, “Fly or Die” has beenin stores since March 23, 2004 and features sounds that represent awide spectrum of styles that truly influenced each member of theclan. From ClassicRock to Old Funk, the trio has blossomed in this album, goingplaces musically they have never been before.
“Everybody listens to everything. Good musictranscends and has no barriers,” concluded Pharell Williams.
For more information on the Neptunes, visit