July 7, 2006

Pharrell makes up his “Mind”

By Clover Hope

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Pharrell Williams' solo debut, "In
My Mind," has had almost as many release dates as a cat has

First slated to hit stores last November, then December,
then early 2006, then April, the Star Trak/Interscope album is
now locked in for July 25.

And Williams, best-known as half of production/writing team
the Neptunes, says he has no one but himself to blame for the

"I'm a big kid," he confesses from London, where he is
touring in support of the new disc. "I was being super
artistic, and I wasn't listening to anybody. I really didn't
give Interscope a chance to catch up with me in terms of

Eager to push his solo debut, the self-professed
perfectionist says he prematurely issued the Gwen
Stefani-featured lead single "Can I Have It Like That" late
last year while other tracks remained unmixed. His excitement
also drove the release of a music video overseas for second
single "Angel." Meanwhile, Interscope had yet to set up
marketing and promotional strategies for the project. "At a
certain point, (Interscope CEO) Jimmy Iovine was like, 'You
gotta slow down a little bit, get us up to speed and explain
what you're trying to do,"' Williams says.

But in the interim, the Virginia-raised producer failed to
capitalize on any momentum that might have been created by "Can
I Have It Like That," which peaked at No. 32 on Billboard's Hot
R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

"It's always hard to release a successful single and not
follow up with an album," Star Trak president Yaneley Arty
says. "But Pharrell felt that he had more to add to this

One addition is his current self-produced single, "Number
1" featuring Kanye West. The track is creeping up the urban
charts but has yet to break into the Billboard Hot 100.


Williams, who has yielded better sales results behind the
boards (Stefani's "Hollaback Girl," Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like
It's Hot," to name a few of his many hits) than on the mic,
insists that "In My Mind" is not an attempt to echo the
commercial success of his production work.

"I don't see myself selling 5 million records," he says.
"For me it's about having fun, not trying to fit in. I've
already sold tons of records as a producer."

The original premise of "In My Mind" -- seven R&B tracks
and seven hip-hop cuts -- stands, as well as the guest slots by
Jay-Z, Snoop, Slim Thug and the Clipse. Instrumentation is
heavy and reminiscent of the Neptunes' sound, which is dictated
by hard drumlines, eccentric keys and lush violins. While the
hip-hop tracks test Williams' rhyming skills, the jazzier R&B
cuts boast his signature Prince-like falsetto.

With the album release drawing near, Williams seems to be
back on track. A new N.E.R.D. disc is in the works, plus
upcoming production projects for Slim Thug, the Clipse, Robin
Thicke, Fam-Lay, Jay-Z, Ludacris and Velvet Revolver, among
others. Additionally, Louis Vuitton recently drafted Williams
for its fall and winter ad campaigns.

If fans don't tag along for his solo ride, they will still
be able to find him easily. "It's great when the rest of the
world gets my music," he says, "but if they don't, I can
connect with them through Snoop, Jay, Beyonce, Ludacris ..."
And the list goes on.