In the 21st century, there’s no producer more influential than Kanye West or Pharrell Williams in the hip hop realm. They both share similar origin stories, and the respect between the pair is monumental.
Pharrell is five years older than Ye and began making waves in the industry some time ahead of his peer. The pair were students of the game, who found a way to enter the industry through the back door, and the experience they gathered before they started releasing their own music was invaluable.
As Williams had already gone from producing with The Neptunes to stepping in front of the microphone with N.E.R.D., he was understandably an influence on Ye. Even though their styles are significantly different, their character and DNA have more in common.
They aren’t afraid to break conventions and use their creativity in ways that make others raise eyebrows. While they’ve gone about their business differently, Williams has given Ye the confidence to do things on his own terms and inspired him to throw caution to the wind.
In 2020, Kanye interviewed Pharrell for i-D’s The Faith In Chaos Summer issue, and the pair had a beautifully candid discussion. At one point, Ye explains why Williams is an inspiration to him, and it’s not for the reason you’d suspect.
He commented: “I think one of the things that you, Pharrell, inspired in me was this fearlessness to break the mould. You’re the inspiration. Before I wore a pink polo you were wearing a pink polo. That lineage is mapped out and proven, and you can go from then all the way up to the moment we have in culture now. You broke down the doors in fashion for us.”
Ye added: “Going out to Paris, you had this elegance, it’s not something that even can be learnt. Then to be the first guy to have a skateboard on the cover of The Source, for example. These moments, where we had to break out and just do something completely different, that basically has inspired an entire generation. Everything looks and feels more and more like what Pharrell started.”
Watch the footage below of Kanye playing ‘Through The Wire’ to Pharrell for the first time back in 2004.