The World According to Pharrell
Pharrell Williams explains the philosophy that guides his life
Danny Bowman views the artiste’s thinking and spirituality
Amusician, an artiste, a collaborator and a universalist, Pharrell Williams’ thoughts and opinions may contradict his music – and vice versa – such as his producer duties on Fox’s 2014 hit Hidden Figures, which tells the story of three gifted black female mathematicians.
Consider then his controversial invol-vement with Robin Thicke on Blurred Lines, a song that crept almost unnoticed into the mainstream before the reality of its content could be censored by women’s liberty groups.
But when Pharrell is good, he’s very good: for example, The Neptunes and N.E.R.D. with Chad Hugo; his infectious hit Happy for Despicable Me 2; numerous works with Calvin Harris, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and so on.
The list of peers bending over backwards to work with this perfectly poised producer is seemingly endless.
One could forgive him if he was a little over-the-top or blasé about his work and achievements… yet, he is anything but. He may display bravado and alpha male behaviour in his music videos but Williams is relatively down-to-earth for a man used to churning out hits such as Beautiful and Frontin’.
“I am not blind to the fact that I’ve been granted a gift,” he says, adding: “However, that’s not all it takes. I’ve still had to work very hard and you don’t achieve much without putting in that amount of work.”
Pharrell continues: “I do like to think that not only have I worked hard and con-tinue to do so but I also have the discipline to take myself on this journey to where I am now.”
He is in many ways ageless and his appearance belies those 48 years. In his music, the connectivity is to multiple generations and a cross section of re-cognised demographics.
“I’m lucky that I’ve been able to follow my dreams and desires exactly when and how I wanted. When that wasn’t possible and I had to do things I didn’t enjoy or would rather not do, they have only been for short periods… and that’s another part of my luck,” Pharrell affirms.
He adds: “I never cut corners; nor do I take shortcuts when I’m in my creative processes and frame of mind. But I also don’t do things the way many other people do in a textbook kind of way.”
And Williams says he knows what works for him: “I always do what I feel comfortable with – and what’ll get me the results that I want. It doesn’t matter how other people see that; or how they get to their desired goal.”
“If someone was to give me rules and ways to work or follow guidelines, I pro-bably couldn’t and wouldn’t do it. I will always find my own way because it’s what works for me as an artiste,” Pharrell reveals.
Williams sees himself as a universalist in both religious and holistic senses. He declares: “We are too smart these days to pigeonhole ourselves into one way of thinking.”
“So much of our lives around us demand us to be fluid, and I think it’s really important to be able to mould and adapt yourself to different people and situations. I want to stay open to new ideas and perceptions; it’s really important for me,” Pharrell continues.
Indeed, the Virginia-born musician is happy to go one step farther. He questions what the world’s people would be like if only they could embrace, understand and appreciate each other’s thoughts, wisdom and beliefs.
He elaborates: “If you don’t believe you’re due for a change in your thinking, then naturally you’ll never ever find it. Change isn’t going to come up and give you a tap on the shoulder – you have to be open to change and that goes for everything. If you don’t, you risk being sidelined.”
The inspirational artiste has also laun-ched a tech fused music curricu-lum through the US foundation Verizon with the aim of providing free techno-logy and internet access to under-resourced middle schools.
“I was lucky to have so much stimulation when I was young and that’s where all this creative energy came from… and that stimulated me more – one provokes the other. We should always be giving more back from a point of privilege or knowledge because we’re the ones whom people aspire to be like,” Williams says.
He asserts: “And believing in being successful is like believing in God. It’s all there if you want it – you’ve got to decide how much you want to put into it and simi-larly, how much you want to get out of it.”
Pharrell Williams says that “only you will know what counts as success in your own head since only you know when you’ve built your faith and understanding to a level where you’re comfortable, and it truly benefits your life. The important thing is that you take that step and make the decision yourself.”
– Compiled by hub.branded