A while back HHDX brought you the news that several albums had leaked to the
internet, including Pharrell's new
joint, In My Mind. What we didn't
tell you is where the album leaked from: the toilet.
This album has been in the works for some time. Its first single ("Can I Have
it Like That" feat. Gwen Stefani)
was released so long ago that I was surprised to actually see it on the album. Pharrell (aka Skateboard P) does his trademark Pharrell thing: soft yet arrogant verse recital over Hip Pop production.
Stefani only adds to the mood. "How
Does it Feel" is a similar tune, only this time Pharrell struggles to stay on beat. "Raspy Shit" elaborates on the
memorable bar from "Drop It Like It's Hot" ("don't try to come up in my ear talking all that raspy shit, tryin to
ask me shit"). "Best Friend" is a brief departure from the superficial
baller-rhymes; Pharrell gets
introspective giving us some insight into how he met Chad Hugo, his family life, and all of the problems that come along
with selling millions of records worldwide. The hook on "You Can Do It Too"
sounds inspirational but turns out to be more thinly veiled arrogance and
over-the-top materialism. Yes, we know you're fly. It wouldn't be so bad if the
production weren't so soft and gushy.
And then, on cue, Pharrell ushers in
an impressive barrage of A-List artists in an obvious effort to keep this album
on the Hip Hop charts (as opposed to the pop charts). In the next 9 tracks, Pharrell features Slim Thug, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, The Clipse, Nelly, and Kanye West). Unfortunately none of them
can save this album.
Think the album will sell? Yezzur.
Look. I realize that Pharrell's
production duo The Neptunes have
produced hit songs/albums for mega-artists from just about every music genre. I
also realize that his vocal talent is well documented on tracks like Snoop's "Beautiful," Jay's "Excuse Me Miss," and Mystikal's "Shake Ya Ass (to name only
a few)." I even give him credit for pushing the Hip Hop envelope. In an
industry where Hip Hop artists are pressured to cater to the formulaic tastes
of record companies, Pharrell is a
shining contradiction with his eclectic blend of old school sounds and new age
But, I have to call a spade a spade. Pharrell
Williams cannot rap. Not even a little bit. Okay, he's got a good flow, but
that's it. In My Mind only confirms
suspicions that Skateboard P tends
to hide behind vague references to far-off vacation spots, luxury cars, and trendy
Euro-fashions on the mic because he can't spit. With very few exceptions, this
album does not offer any lyrical (or for that matter stylistic) evidence that Pharell belongs in the
producer-turned-rapper category beside Kanye
West, the late J.Dilla and
Where this album does succeed is in reinforcing his niche ability to make a
good rap artist sound even better. This is what he has done for Jay-Z, this is what he has done for Snoop Dogg, and on and on. "Number One"
epitomizes that ability, as Pharrell
does wonders for the Louis Vuitton Don
with his cognac-smooth, almost electric flair on the album's best track. He
will certainly catch criticism for sounding a bit like Michael Jackson circa 1979, and for the ruthless onslaught of
big-name cameos...but in the end Pharrell's
first solo album should be a commercial success, even if it is an unsure blend
of R&B and Hip Hop. What it will not be is a reason for anyone to change
their opinion of Pharrell Williams
as a Hip Hop artist.