(Credit: Frank Schwichtenberg)

Old School Archives

The record that Pharrell Williams said changed his life


Pharrell Williams has lit up the 21st Century, whether it’s as a solo artist, producer with The Neptunes, or a member of N.E.R.D. One thing is for sure: few people have had their fingerprints on music, fashion, and culture quite like Pharrell.

His musical journey began when he was a youngster and went to musical summer camp in seventh grade. It would be the best decision he ever made, thanks to bringing Chad Hugo to his attention. The two of them would later form The Neptunes together and build a reputation on a local level in Virginia before exploding.

Throughout the 1990s, they built a strong relationship with Pusha T’s former outfit Clipse, and soon enough, hip hop royalty were queueing up for their chance to work with the production duo. Williams and Hugo also formed N.E.R.D. who created an infectious fusion of hip-hop and rock, which showed that Pharrell’s talents weren’t just confined to the mixing desk.

However, music isn’t his only passion, and growing up, Williams refused to keep his eggs in one basket. Throughout his teenage years, if Pharrell wasn’t cooking up beats, he was out breakdancing, and his extra-curricular hobby also helped bolster his love of hip-hop.

Speaking to The Guardian, Pharrell named Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force’s 1982 track ‘Planet Rock’ as one of the most important songs in his life, which reminded him of his breakdancing days. He explained: “This record changed my life. It was a phenomenon. The whole neighbourhood was playing it on boomboxes. I didn’t understand what the hell it was. It was like some space shit.”

He continued: “Then, just after ‘Planet Rock’, there was Run-DMC’s ‘It’s Like That’. Those two records were incredible. And Art of Noise [‘Beat Box’]. I was a breakdancer back then. I didn’t know I was going to be musician at that stage.”

‘Planet Rock’ was the group’s first single and charted in both the UK and the US, but, unfortunately, the outfit’s following releases failed to replicate the success. Yet, this track remains a beloved effort, and its impact is embodied by Pharrell’s doting words, which are a testament to their achievements.