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Pharrell Lanscilo Williams (//; born April 5, 1973) is an American singer, rapper, songwriter, record producer, fashion designer, and entrepreneur. With close friend Chad Hugo, he formed the hip hop and R&B production duo the Neptunes in the early 1990s, with whom he has produced singles for various recording artists. In 1999, he became the lead vocalist of the band N.E.R.D., which he formed with Hugo and Shay Haley.
Williams in December 2016
Pharrell Lanscilo Williams
April 5, 1973
Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S.
Williams released his debut solo single, "Frontin'", in 2003. His debut solo album, In My Mind, followed in 2006. His second album, Girl, was released in 2014 and included the commercially successful single "Happy". He was featured on Daft Punk's 2013 single "Get Lucky", which reached the top ten in the music charts of over 32 countries and has sold more than 9.3 million copies, making it one of the best-selling singles of all time. The song also won Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th Grammy Awards.
Williams has received numerous accolades and nominations. He has won thirteen Grammy Awards, including three for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical (one of which was as a member of The Neptunes). He is also a two-time Academy Award nominee, receiving a 2014 Best Original Song nomination for "Happy" (which was featured in Despicable Me 2) and a 2017 Best Picture nomination as one of the producers of Hidden Figures.
Pharrell Lanscilo Williams was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on April 5, 1973, the oldest of three sons born to teacher Carolyn and handyman Pharaoh Williams. His ancestry traces back through many generations in Virginia and North Carolina, and one of his ancestors journeyed to West Africa in 1831, prompting other relatives to emigrate from the U.S. to Liberia in 1832. Williams met Chad Hugo in a seventh-grade summer band camp, where Williams played the drums and Hugo played the tenor saxophone. Williams and Hugo attended Princess Anne High School where they played in the school band Williams attended Northwestern University for two years before dropping out.
In the early 1990s, Williams (alongside Hugo, Timbaland and Magoo) formed a hip hop group named Surrounded by Idiots; they disbanded before making any records. Williams then formed a four-piece "R&B-type" group, the Neptunes, with friends Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge. They later entered a high school talent show, where they were discovered by producer Teddy Riley, whose studio was next to their high school. After graduating from high school, the group signed with Riley.
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1992–2004: The Neptunes
Williams wrote Riley's verse on Wreckx-N-Effect's 1992 hit "Rump Shaker". As the Neptunes, Williams and Hugo produced Noreaga's 1998 single "Superthug". The Neptunes began working with rap duo Clipse (composed of rappers Pusha T and Malice) in the late 1990s, and worked on Clipse's album Exclusive Audio Footage, which was later shelved.
The Neptunes produced Mystikal's single "Shake Ya Ass" (2000), Jay-Z's single "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)" (2000), and Nelly's single "Hot in Herre" (2002). The Neptunes worked with singer Kelis, producing her first two studio albums, Kaleidoscope (1999), and Wanderland (2001). In 2001, N.E.R.D., a band composed of Williams, Hugo and Shay Haley, released their debut studio album, In Search of.... Williams and Hugo signed rap duo Clipse (composed of rappers Pusha T and Malice) to Arista Records through Williams' Star Trak Entertainment imprint in 2001. The Neptunes produced songs on singer Babyface's 2001 album, Face2Face, including its lead single, "There She Goes". The Neptunes produced the Britney Spears songs "I'm a Slave 4 U" and "Boys", both included on her third studio album, Britney (2001).
In 2002, Clipse released their debut studio album, Lord Willin', with production handled entirely by the Neptunes. In the same year, the Neptunes produced numerous songs on Justin Timberlake's debut album, Justified, including the singles "Señorita", "Like I Love You" and "Rock Your Body". In 2003, the Neptunes released a compilation album, Clones. A survey[by whom?] in August 2003 found the Neptunes produced almost 20 percent of songs played on British radio at the time, and a survey in the US found them to produce 43 percent of radio songs. The Neptunes produced Snoop Dogg's single "Drop It Like It's Hot" (2004), which also featured vocals from Williams.
2005–09: In My Mind and collaborations
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The Neptunes produced Gwen Stefani's single "Hollaback Girl", which entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 82 on the issue dated April 2, 2005, and topped the chart within six weeks of its release. In 2006, Williams released his debut solo album, In My Mind. The Neptunes produced Clipse's second album, Hell Hath No Fury. Williams was announced as a performer at Concert for Diana in Wembley Stadium, London on July 1, 2007.
Williams worked with Madonna for her eleventh studio album, Hard Candy (2008). In June 2008, an article in NME revealed that Williams was interested in producing the next album of American rock band the Strokes. Later that year, Williams worked on a remix album for Maroon 5, titled Call and Response: The Remix Album.
Williams worked with Shakira on her songs "Did It Again", "Why Wait", "Good Stuff" and "Long Time" for her sixth studio album, She Wolf (2009). The following month, Williams made a guest appearance on French rapper Uffie's debut album, which was released in early 2010.[better source needed]
2010–12: Despicable Me and collaborations
In July 2010, Williams composed the soundtrack to the movie Despicable Me, produced by Hans Zimmer and recorded with the Hollywood Studio Symphony. In October 2010, Williams and his group N.E.R.D supported Gorillaz on their Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour. On the tour, Damon Albarn recorded a song with Williams but this was not featured on Gorillaz's album, The Fall. The following month, N.E.R.D released their fourth studio album Nothing through Williams' label Star Trak. In late 2011, Williams worked on three tracks for Mike Posner's second album Sky High.
2013–14: Despicable Me 2, "Blurred Lines", "Get Lucky", Girl and international fame
Williams was featured on Daft Punk's fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, on the songs "Get Lucky" and "Lose Yourself to Dance." In addition, Williams contributed to Azealia Banks's debut studio album Broke with Expensive Taste, featuring on the song "ATM Jam". Williams penned three new original songs, included alongside composer Heitor Pereira's score, for the sequel Despicable Me 2. These were "Just a Cloud Away", "Happy", and "Scream" (featuring CeeLo Green). His two original songs from the first film were also reprised on the soundtrack – "Despicable Me" and "Fun, Fun, Fun". He also participated in the drummer sessions of the soundtrack of Man of Steel by Hans Zimmer.
In March 2013, Robin Thicke's single "Blurred Lines", written and produced by Williams, was released. The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached number one in 13 more countries including the United Kingdom and Germany. It was Williams's third Billboard Hot 100 number one single. On June 29, 2013, Williams became the twelfth artist in the chart's history to simultaneously hold the number one and two positions with "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky", respectively.
As of July 2013, there had been only 137 singles in UK chart history to have sold more than 1 million copies; that month, Williams scored two million-sellers with "Get Lucky" and "Blurred Lines". In August 2013, Busta Rhymes talked about an unreleased "documentary album" by Williams where he talks about "inner-city strife and hardship". In November 2013, Williams released the first 24-hour music video to his Despicable Me 2 collaboration song, "Happy". Guest appearances included Magic Johnson, Steve Carell, Jimmy Kimmel, Jamie Foxx, Odd Future, Miranda Cosgrove, Janelle Monáe, and many others. It has received approximately 5.5 million views as of Christmas Day, 2013. The music video for the song is nominated for Best Male Video and Video of the Year at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards.
It was announced in December 2013 that Williams had been nominated for seven Grammy Awards, including Producer of the Year. In the same month, a press release from Columbia Records announced that Williams had signed a contract with the label and would be releasing an album in 2014, entitled Girl, featuring the single "Happy" from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack. For "Happy", Williams was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. In February 2014, Major Lazer announced they would be releasing a five-track EP titled Apocalypse Soon on the 25th of that month. The EP, released via Mad Decent and Secretly Canadian, features Williams and Sean Paul, among others. The first single off the EP, which features Williams, is titled "Aerosol Can". Williams contributed a verse to Future's February 2014 single "Move That Dope", which also featured Pusha T and Casino over production from Mike Will Made It.
On February 18, Williams announced via Twitter that Girl would be released on March 3, 2014. At the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, Williams's song "Happy" lost to "Let It Go" from Frozen. Afterwards, when GQ magazine asked Williams "how badly" did he want the Oscar, he responded: "When they read the results, my face was...frozen. But then I thought about it, and I just decided just to...let it go." At the Oscar Awards that same year, he wore a controversial outfit consisting of a tuxedo with shorts.
The Dear Girl Tour was a European concert tour, in support of Girl. It was Williams's first solo tour since 2006. In May 2014, Williams received an Innovator Award at the iHeartRadio Music Awards.
2014–present: The Voice, Something in the Water and other ventures
On March 31, 2014, Williams was announced as a new coach for the seventh season of The Voice, replacing CeeLo Green. On May 18, 2015, Team Pharrell had 16-year-old Sawyer Fredericks win the eighth season of The Voice. In June 2014, it was announced that Williams would make a guest appearance on the docu-series Sisterhood of Hip Hop. Williams was the executive producer of Atlanta rapper T.I.'s ninth studio album, Paperwork, which was released on October 21, 2014 by Grand Hustle and Columbia Records. In May 2014, Williams curated an art show named after his album, Girl, at the Galerie Perrotin in Paris, France. The show included 37 artists including Takashi Murakami, JR, Daniel Arsham, and Marina Abramovic among others." Comme des Garçons developed a unisex fragrance with Williams scheduled for release in late 2014. Kaws designed the bottle artwork.
In January 2015, Williams and Al Gore announced that they are teaming up to create a 7-continent "Live Earth" concert on June 18 to raise awareness about and pressure governments to act on climate change. He is the musical director. On February 8, 2015, Williams made a cameo in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Walking Big & Tall" where he comes to Springfield to write a new anthem for the town. Williams recorded three songs for the soundtrack to the animated film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. He also recorded a song "Shine" with Gwen Stefani for the Paddington movie. At the 2015 Grammy Awards Williams performed an orchestral rendition of "Happy" with composer Hans Zimmer and pianist Lang Lang that included a tribute to the Black Lives Matter "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" movement inspired by Eric Garner's death and the events in Ferguson, Missouri. In 2015, a unanimous jury determined that Williams's 2013 hit song "Blurred Lines" was an infringement of the 1977 Marvin Gaye song "Got to Give It Up". The jury awarded the Gaye family $7.4 million in damages for the copyright infringement based on profits generated.
In October 2015, the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University named Williams as their artist-in-residence. He gave the 2017 commencement address at NYU and received an honorary degree on May 17, 2017.
Also in October 2015, Williams announced that he will perform with a gospel choir on Sunday, November 1, at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black parishioners were shot and killed on June 17, 2013. This is part of a program on race relations being produced by A+E Networks and iHeartMedia. Williams planned to speak with community leaders and others affected by the shooting, which dominated the U.S. news media for several days. The two-hour Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America program was scheduled to air November 20, as well as include a concert to be filmed November 18 in Los Angeles. A goal of the program is to raise money for the victims of racial violence and for organizations around the country working to promote racial equity.
In March 2019, Williams and the city of Virginia Beach announced the launch of a three-day music and cultural festival titled Something in the Water, to be held during College Beach Weekend, April 26–28, on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. The festival, created by Williams as a solution to years of violence on the Oceanfront associated with the aforementioned College Beach Weekend, also featured activities such as an Adidas Creator Park; conferences on technology, racial equality, and the music industry; and a pop-up church service featuring 20 local churches and performances by nationally renowned Gospel artists such as Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary. The festival featured solo performances by Travis Scott, SZA, J Balvin, Chris Brown, Anderson Paak, Jhené Aiko, Kaytranada, Pusha T, Charlie Wilson, Teddy Riley, DRAM, Rosalía, A$AP Ferg, and Mac DeMarco, in addition to the "Pharrell and Friends" set that closed the festival's second day, featuring Williams and a lineup of guests, including Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Usher, N.E.R.D., Busta Rhymes, and Tyler, the Creator. Additional guest appearances during the festival's final day included Trey Songz, Fabolous, Lil Duval and members of SWV and Blackstreet. Acts such as the Dave Matthews Band, Migos, Janelle Monáe, and Lil Uzi Vert were slated to perform on Friday, August 26, but were cancelled due to severe thunderstorms.
In the past, Williams has stated that he does not have any direct musical influences, but he has expressed his admiration for several musicians, including Michael Jackson, J Dilla, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Rakim, Q-Tip and David Bowie. Williams explained that A Tribe Called Quest's debut album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990), caused a "turning point" in his life, which "made him see that music was art".
In 2005, Williams partnered with Japanese fashion icon Nigo to create the streetwear brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream footwear. Billionaire Boys Club has flagship store in SoHo, New York City and an official Ice Cream store in Tokyo, Japan. Several stores that retail Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream clothing exist across North America, the United Kingdom and Europe, as well as Asia and the Middle East. Pharrell and Nigo went on to launch the Billionaire Girls Club.
In 2008, Williams co-designed a series of jewelry ("Blason") and glasses for Louis Vuitton. He has also worked on furniture with Emmanuel Perrotin and a French manufacturer, Domeau & Pérès. One of his works, a molded plastic seat with human legs, was created because he "wanted to know what it was like to be in love." The chair depicts a sexual scene with a pair of female legs and male legs.
In May 2012, Williams launched I Am Other, a multimedia creative collective and record label. I Am Other also serves as an umbrella for his additional business endeavors, including a dedicated YouTube channel and apparel/textile lines.
In August 2013, Williams created a line of sunglasses for Moncler called "Moncler Lunettes". In 2014, Williams entered a long-term partnership with Adidas. His Adidas NMD "Human Race" collection was released on July 23, 2016. In February 2014, Williams announced a collaboration between G-Star Raw and his textile company Bionic Yarn called "RAW for the Oceans," a collection of denim made from recycled plastic that is found in the ocean. The project was presented at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Williams later appeared on a cover designed by French artist Grégoire Guillemin of New York-based men fashion magazine Adon, covering the collaboration. Williams released a collection for retail giant Uniqlo in April 2014 entitled "i am OTHER". It was created with Nigo, creative director of UT, the company's T-shirt division.
In June 2014, artist collective Rizzoli published a book by FriendsWithYou, We Are Friends With You, that featured contributions from Williams, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Peter Doroshenko. Williams co-composed the score for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) with Hans Zimmer, Johnny Marr, Michael Einziger and David A. Stewart.
Williams owns a non-profit organization called "From One Hand To AnOTHER" (FOHTA). FOHTA is an educational foundation. According to its website, its mission is to "change the world one kid at a time by giving them the tools and resources to meet their unique potential". FOHTA's vision is to modernize the community center concept by empowering kids to learn through new technologies, arts, media and motivation.
In 2018, Williams worked with Ariana Grande and co-produced her fourth studio album, Sweetener (2018). He is featured in the background of many tracks, and mainly featured on one track, Blazed. He produced seven total tracks on the album.
Verizon partnered with Williams on April 26, 2019, to launch a tech-fused music curriculum in a nationwide Verizon Foundation Learning schools. The education organization under Verizon Foundation works toward providing free technology, internet access, technology-focused curriculum to under-resourced middle schools.
Williams married his longtime girlfriend, model and fashion designer Helen Lasichanh, on October 12, 2013. They have a son named Rocket (born 2008). The Despicable Me song "Rocket's Theme" was written in honor of his son. In September 2016, they announced that they were expecting another child; in January 2017, Lasichanh gave birth to triplets.
In 2005, Williams was voted "Best Dressed Man in the World" by Esquire. He is a fan of the science fiction series Star Trek, as indicated by his consistent use of the Vulcan salute to signify his label name, Star Trak. Williams is a skateboarder and has a half-pipe inside his home.
Williams is building a $35 million after-school center in his hometown Virginia Beach. His charity "From One Hand To AnOTHER'" is a foundation developed for youth between the ages of 7 and 20 in at-risk communities throughout the country.
Williams offered internships to 114 Harlem High School students. All the 114 Harlem High School students have been accepted to colleges and the purpose of Williams's donation was for the purpose of helping the students become the next leaders to bring about change. He stated the mission of the program by saying: "History will confirm it – we are in the midst of another Harlem Renaissance." Promise Academy High School commencement speaker guaranteed the #ClassOf2019 with A-list internships at the end of their freshman year of college so they can begin their paths to successful careers.
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