PHARRELL The new N”E”R”D album and artwork.
Amazingly, this was not the album you were intended to hear. Early in 2010, Pharrell, Chad and Shae sat in their Miami recording studio listening to roughly 20 songs, recorded over the previous year, that they believed would form their newest album. Previous LPs, like their critically-acclaimed, highly-influential IN SEARCH OF, and its follow-ups, FLY OR DIE and SEEING SOUNDS, had explored the diasporas of the rock ‘n roll sound. They tenaciously, passionately created a musical space that subscribed to no boundaries or set of rules; and in that, created a loyal and dedicated following of fans that came from a myriad of backgrounds. In many ways, the group could have easily gotten away with releasing just about anything and it had a very good shot at finding some success. But N*E*R*D is not a group that feels comfortable with just getting by. “It didn’t feel right. Sitting there and listening to it, it was definitely a new sound, an experimental sound. With a little bit more work, we’d have had something that the average person probably would’ve been just as happy with,” says the group’s vocalist and co-songwriter, Shae of the first sessions. “But we would *know*. Our core fans would *know*. It wouldn’t be us.” “People are concerned with war and the world. People are still dealing with their issues even if we think thing have changed,” explains Pharrell. “And when we looked back on those 20 records, they weren’t really saying what we wanted to say. They weren’t good enough.” And so N*E*R*D scrapped all 20 of those songs and decided to start over. T hey went back to NOTHING. “I believe in making ‘something’ out of ‘nothing,’” says Chad Hugo. “Anyone who makes art or expresses themselves in any creative way, it’s a challenge to empty out the cup and then try and refill it again.
You want that challenge, to see if you can come up with something new and not rely on what you’ve done before. That’s how we motivate ourselves.” Did you catch that? Some of the most successful musicians in the world, who have every reason to just rest easy and trade on their name and reputation, scrapped an entire year’s worth of work to challenge themselves and make something better. Clean the slate and start again. Do it better. Do it right.
Despite the fact that I think some of the brands he is affiliated with are horrendously overpriced, I still like Pharrell. He is a multifaceted individual, from being successful in the arenas of fashion to music, he is certainly an admirable individual. Another aspect of him that we can all learn from is his impeccable style. While remaining true to himself he is the blood manifestation of the philosophy that fashion trandscends scene. As a hip hop producer amongst other things, he does like to wear baggier clothing, diamond studded accessories, and drive flashy cars. But at the same time, he takes enjoyment in wearing properly tailored clothing that metamorphoses him into a dashing sophisticated man. The Pharrell shoot for Russian vogue helps push this idea forward. Paired with Russian model Natasha Polly, Terry Richardson shoots attractive, amateur inspired (although Richardson's work is anything but amateur), photo shoots that effectively show Pharrell's sartorial diversity that many of us wish we were comfortable with.
ZE F ZEF ZEF The video “Zef Side” went online in December 2009 and the video for “Enter the Ninja” was up in mid-January 2010. How did they fare initially? Ninja: No one watched them and we started getting insecure and we thought we sucked. Yo-Landi: A weird thing was, suddenly a lot of people caught on to “ Zef Side” and we were a little tweaked because we made it for fun. But “Enter the Ninja” was more like our soul. From there, funny enough, “Zef Side” turned people on to “Enter The Ninja.” And that became the big deal.Please explain what Zef is. Ninja: It’s the ultimate style. February 3, 2010 is the day the videos went everywhere. What was that day like? Yo-Landi: It was messed up. Ninja: It was nighttime. We got home at night after a show, late. We came in from Johannesburg. It was like The Twilight Zone for about a week. Did you leave your computer that week? Ninja: We just left to go to the bathroom and then came back. Or when the food ran out after the third day. We just laid down on the floor and looked at the sky and then went and looked at the computer again. Yo-Landi: When you have like 5,000 emails in your inbox you just give up eventually. I didn’t know what to do. Ninja: When you’d navigate away and come back there was like 2,000 more hits. Once it jumped up 10,000 hits in a second. It was a fokken freak out. So literally over two million people have seen you shaking your dick in the “Zef Side” video? Ninja: It’s much bigger. Someone posted another one so it’s actually like four million. There’s two there. It’s ridiculous. After the explosion in early February, what happened next for you guys? Ninja: It’s all a psychedelic blur. Everyone wanted to be our friend. Yo-Landi: We went from a small fishing village in South Africa to flying business class to LA. Is it fair to say Die Antwoord is satire? Ninja: Not really. I think it’s just kind of new. A lot of people say that but it’s not really our thing. It’s very personal to us. It’s just how we are. We’ve done other stuff before but I didn’t really know what my fokken zone was. Then when it hit me with Die Antwoord it was like, “This is the fokken shit. We can go full-force into this.” It’s new. People get it and they love it. But some people are cozy with the shit state of pop at the moment and they can’t process it and think.
it’s not real. They’re not into the next dimension yet and are kind of stuck in the past. How old are you? I’m 31. How old are you guys? Ninja: I’m 35 and she doesn’t talk about her age. I’ve been doing other projects for a fokken long time. I’ve heard you say Die Antwoord is an overnight success that was 20 years in the making. Ninja: I’ve been rapping for ages. When rap came out it was so fokken fierce. There was nothing quite like it, but then rap kind of died. It’s huge but it’s this big fokken dead thing, to be perfectly honest. It was so fierce and psychedelic and had so many different things popping. It started getting big and overtook Garth Brooks in the late Nineties. It was like, “Jesus, rap’s bigger than country.” Now it’s not such a big thing. It’s big but it’s dead. I was experimenting with all this different shit that was way off the fokken mark. It wasn’t close to the core. Then you find something like this. Die Antwoord? It’s fokken personal, Die Antwoord is. Why do you think Die Antwoord has resonated with people on a global level? Ninja: Because it’s new. What was the reaction to you in South Africa? Yo-Landi: Mixed emotions. Because it’s the place we come from
our music means something totally different to someone from South Africa. It’s got different nuances and they hear different things to what you hear. The kids love it. The older people aren’t that sure. Ninja: A lot of old people really, really, really don’t like it. I’m not bragging but we’re the biggest group in the world ever out of South Africa. Like ever, in the history of the whole fokker. There’s Mandela, District 9 and Die Antwoord. That’s the history of South Africa. Someone said that to me and I’m like, “Oh yeah, that’s true.” The style we represent pisses a lot of people off. South Africans generally, the culture—this is gonna be a little controversial what I’m going to say here—the entire cultureis insecure a little bit. Americans, they’re not insecure. You’ll see the French also and they’re like, “Fokk everyone; we’re the centre of the world.” We’re kind of inspired by that attitude. There’s cool fokken shit in South Africa. But the people, as a culture, as a whole, they haven’t got a fokken style. Then we check in and we get to present it and stylize it with full-force. And that’s what Zef is for us—that ultimate flex and it’s fokken South African. It’s a medium to put our most intense life experience and energy into like a bomb, which is Die Antwoord. you mentioned District 9. Is it true the director of that, Vancouverite Neil Blomkamp is going to make your next video? I can’t believe it. Neil: Fokk you. He was supposed to come tonight. He said “no” right before we came. He thought the show was at 7:30 on the 17th. So he missed it. We’re gonna do something with him but he’s caught up and doing a new film. We’re not sure what it is but probably a video. I haven’t met him yet. We’re looking forward to meeting him. He’s a genius. yo-Landi, can you confirm that you’re talking to David Fincher about playing Lisbeth in the English version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Yo-Landi: He asked me and I said no. We’re shooting a feature film now so the plan didn’t work out. He wanted to shoot in August but we’re in Japan and then we’re shooting our movie. What’s that called? Yo-Landi: The Answer. And it’s about you guys? Yo-Landi: Yeah. Die Antwoord have this amazing internet presence. However, you’ve signed with a big label, Interscope, and big labels are notoriously bad at the internet... Ninja: It’s like a gangster move. We have a very unique deal. Yo-Landi: I don’t understand. What I mean is big labels just aren’t good at the internet...