Two days into 2002 and the superproduction group the Neptunes are already carrying out one of their New Year’s resolutions: eliminate the fake. Under their alias, N*E*R*D, an outfit that also includes MC Shay, the Virginians pull the cards of those who front on “Rock Star,” the next single from their long-delayed In Search of N*E*R*D LP.
“Basically, it’s about people posing to be something they’re not,” Shay explained.
“Posers have always been wack, though,” interjected Pharrell Williams, who sings on the track about how there will be no one left once he and his group “sets it off.” “It’s good to be original and ‘Rock Star’s’ just a good and easy example for everyone to relate to. There’s always going to be somebody trying to be somebody that he’s not. Sometimes, you just gotta pull a person’s coattail and just say, ‘Hey, you’re posing, you’re not real.’ Sometimes it’s cool to just give somebody the reality check and say ‘Man, be original.’ ”
According to the trio, the first version of the album, which was originally slated for a summer 2001 release before being pushed to fall 2001, and now to January 29, was suffocating them creatively. So they went back in the studio and had their protÃ©gÃ© rock band the Spy Mob play all the tracks – which had been synthesized – with live instruments (see “Neptunes Trash Their N*E*R*D Debut”).
“When we first did it, it was cool, but it didn’t breathe,” Williams said. “Then when we did it live, it was like, ‘OK, it’s breathing. The first N*E*R*D album was a monster, people seen it as exotic. We felt like it was behind bars. The first album was like an exotic monkey you see at the zoo. This [new version] is a safari. Now it’s free, it runs amok in its own world.”
“We wanted to broaden our audience with the music that we make,” Chad Hugo added. “We have a lot of hip-hop fans that enjoy the Neptunes’ music, but since this project is kind of a project with me and Pharrell stepping out of the Neptunes doing our own thing, we wanted to take that to another level and just do some stuff other than the basic hip-hop format that people are used to hearing us do (see “Neptunes Don’t Care If You’re Not Feeling Their N*E*R*D LP”).
“And hip-hop fans aren’t necessarily dumb,” he continued. “They’re smart. If they like music, they’ll like it. If they like that Jay-Z song [‘Takeover’] with the Jim Morrison sample in it… That’s a rock sample. A lot of the beats out, the hot beats, the classic hot beats are sampled from old [rock] songs.”
And while the musical soundscapes range from rock to psychedelic funk to electronica, it’s the lyrics on the LP that need close attention. After a quick listen, “Brain” may seem to be about finding a girl’s intelligence sexy, however, it turns out that tune is about oral sex.
“Run to the Sun” may be the most meaningful cut on the album, especially to Williams, who sings to a woman on the cut, “I wanna tell you something, is that I love you girl/ And I wish we could run to the sun and never come back.” But as he disclosed, he’s crooning about a different kind of love than what a boyfriend and girlfriend would share.
“That song appears to be about a girl that a guy really can’t get over and he’s asking God to intervene and sort of change things,” Williams explained. “It’s really about my grandmother that has leukemia. The concept is if we ran to the sun, we’ be out of earth’s orbit and could escape the concept of time and life and she wouldn’t have it anymore. It’s just a little super extensive wishful thinking. Ninety percent of the album is metaphorical.”