Super producer/singer Pharrell Williams covers Complex digital cover story.
Check out the highlights below:
I used to say, “I’m super lucky.” Teddy Riley built his studio five minutes from my high school, and now when I go to New York I’m like, “Who the fuck goes to Virginia?” I know who goes to Virginia. He went to Virginia, and he went for a specific reason. I’m not going to say what that reason is for me. But I know I was meant to be affected by his decision. So I know it wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t a mistake. He built a studio a five-minute walk from me. I could be completely wrong. God could be upstairs high-fiving E.T. and Tupac and they’re all laughing at it with a drink in their hands. But you asked me that question, now I’m going to ask you: Do you think there’s a method?
Did you ever imagine you would end up where you are now?
What’s ahead, you don’t know. So, fuck it. Remember they didn’t like tight pants? They were laughing at me. We were jumping around in the N.E.R.D video, “Everyone Nose.” We were bringing light to what the party scene had become. We were moshin’ at a time where niggas were like, “What’s that?” And I’m like, “What do you mean? Y’all don’t remember when Onyx was moshin’?” They were the first to do that shit.
Most people wouldn’t connect those dots, Onyx and tight pants.
I took inspiration from that movement last year when I went to Japan. I dressed like a black skinhead. I was wearing a flight jacket, and instead of red suspenders I had Chanel suspenders. I’m living in the moment. I’m dancing in that light. Because I know that at some point, either the light burns out or the projector stops turning. So, is there a method? That’s my method. My method is to know I can’t control everything. I can’t make everybody like me. And there’s a small bunch of people that fuck with me, right? So, I’m cool with my soldiers.
Kanye had an interview where he said, “Hip-hop artists are the new rock stars.” Do you agree with that?
Jimmy Iovine said it first. He said Dre is the Jimi Hendrix of hip-hop. He heard N.W.A. and he didn’t understand what the fuck he was listening to. He thought it was the most radical, punk, rock-star-minded shit ever. It was bigger than punk, because punk was always too cool to ever become huge, but rock ’n’ roll, the entire genre did rise to the occasion of being big.
You had “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” this summer. You were literally competing with yourself. What was that like?
Unbelievable, unbelievable. I couldn’t explain it. Imagine all your life you go to school to study fashion, and you find out the one thing you really like is the sock. So you’re not gonna be greedy. There’s a lot of designers out there: streetwear, high-end fashion. And you decide, “You know what? My niche is the sock.” So you become decent at it. People start to recognize you for your socks, your little designs and stuff. And all of a sudden, God or the universe taps you on the shoulder and goes, “Hey, reach on the inside, squeeze it, and pull it out.” And you realize that there is a reverse inside the sock. That’s what this is for me. I’ve never been on the forefront of such a huge thing—done by the people, by the way. The people vote for the songs, they pay for the songs, they stream the songs, they look at the videos. So my point is that my understanding of what I was supposed to do, what I could do, had been turned inside out. That’s my life.
You said, “Fashion always boils down to women, and really everything boils down to women.” What do you mean by that?
On a fundamental level, it’s their opinion that society is concerned with. Man’s getting dressed for what? Other dudes? Sometimes, sometimes. And that’s OK. To each his own. But for the most part, whose opinion matters at the end of the day? And again, that’s a matter of opinion. That’s my opinion. But then, on a practical level, where do we all come from? Every living human being, regardless of what their orientation is, or what they’re into, we all come here via the conduit of a woman’s body. And a woman’s decision. You know what I’m sayin’?
Your verse on the “Pretty Flacko” Remix was one of the best of 2012. Do you still enjoy rapping?
Sure. I love rapping. But—something’s coming, and I’m not rapping on it.
No? A full body of work with no rapping?
No rapping. It’s focused. Like I told you, that’s the difference between 30 and 40. ’Cause I was 30, now I’m 40—and I’m not rapping.
Are you talking about a solo album?