Hip-hop, across the years, has undoubtedly seen its fair share of legendary producers. From Timbaland to Kanye, from Dr Dre to Swizz Beats, US hip hop most definitely had and still has a plethora of talented producers churning out incredible beats. However, when it comes to producers, there are none more pioneering than the legendary Pharrell. One half of producer duo The Neptunes.
Comprised of Pharrell Williams and the lesser-known Chad Hugo, The Neptunes rose out of a small Virginia town in the late nineties. With their unique sound and beautifully simplistic sonics, they swiftly took over the charts with their beats and were a household name by the early noughties. By 2003, The Neptunes were responsible for 43% of the songs on US radio, and the number only grew from there.
Having worked with rap stars and pop stars alike, including artists such as Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, The Neptunes were versatile in their production abilities; however, not everyone wanted their music.
Recently appearing on the podcast Drink Champs, hosted by rapper N.O.R.E and DJ EFN, Pharrell reflected on his career and dropped some unknown gems about the music he made as part of The Neptunes. And some of the facts were unbelievable.
Reminiscing about the year 2002, which was a big year for The Neptunes, Pharrell disclosed some interesting information about his experience working with former NSYNC singer Justin Timberlake. Speaking on the singer’s 2002 album Justified, Williams announced how all the backing tracks were made for Michael Jackson as he recalled, “John McClane was his manager at the time, we sent him pretty much all the stuff you guys are hearing on the Justified album, that’s all the Michael stuff! All but one song, they were all written for Michael.”
He continued, “then we got a phone call from John McClane, and he said, ‘Man, Michael don’t want that sh*t! He want that sh*t you giving to N.O.R.E!!” Laughing, he then proceeded to talk about attempting to work with Prince.
“Prince was so cool. I tried for years to make records for him! My first attempt at making a record for him was ‘Frontin’.” In shock and disbelief, the host responded,” ‘Frontin’ was for Prince…?! That’s Crazy!” Williams continued, “He didn’t want it…he heard the hook and the melodies for the verse. I wrote a different version a little bit for him. He wasn’t into it.”
Speaking on the track’s official vocals, he stated, “that was me pretending to be him. It was just what I thought would be good for him at that time, and he was like, nah. Michael turned us down too!”
You can watch the video of Williams talking about Prince below. You can also listen to ‘Frontin’ below.