“The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off.”
The comeback is always stronger than the setback, as the N.E.R.D.s are not only back, but better than ever. Self-titling their fifth album as the acronym, “No_one Ever Really Dies,” the funk rock band has reunited after seven years. Reconnecting with his partner from the Neptunes, Chad Hugo and long-time N.E.R.D collaborator Shay Haley, Pharrell put his genius into action.
Tapping artists such as Rihanna, Gucci Mane, Ed Sheeran, Andre 3000 and even his 9 year-old son Rocket, ‘No_One Ever Really Dies’ is a symphony of politics, real-life situations and good music. The 11-track masterpiece starts with the album’s first single, “Lemon,” featuring a rapping Rihanna. The Barbadian queen known for her exotic vibrato, turns up the heat with a tongue-popping freestyle, stealing the spotlight from Pharrell himself. The Funk Rock band took a step away from the fast-paced electronica heard throughout the album to spread an important message, police brutality.
During an interview with Beat 1’s Zane Lowe, Williams shared that the inspiration behind the track “Don’t Dont’ Do It!”, featuring Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean was the 2016 police shooting of Keith Scott.
“His wife is standing trying to get him, the authorities tell her to stand back. She’s filming the entire thing on her camera phone. She is saying ‘Don’t do it. Don’t don’t do it. Don’t do it, Keith. Don’t, don’t do it.’ She’s telling the authorities that her husband has a TBI, that’s a Traumatic Brain Injury. They’re telling him to put his hands up or whatever and she knows, you can tell in her voice that she see what’s going to happen. She’s saying ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it Keith. Don’t, don’t do it.’ And, of course, you know the way that turned out. He was killed.”
Pharrell stated that Kendrick Lamar was the best choice to help “communicate that feeling.” Speaking of important matters here in America, Pharrell also reaches out to worldly issues, including the lives of refugees. Recruiting Kendrick once again, along with rapper M.I.A., the trio clings onto what humanity is left in the world. A mixture of calypso and traditional neptunes instrumentals, M.I.A., wraps up the 5 minute track with her trademark lyrical prowess. “The girls in here are the humblest/We drink out our plastic tumblers/While you see us on Tumblrs/We wanna get a job as a baroness/They don’t want no god damn foreigners!/Say “hey, you, you wanna marry us?”/Carriers the cross, they carry us/I wanna get high cause I’m curious/I’m serious, I hope you are feeling us/I’m paying all these with periods/With mobiles are running delirious.”
Pharrell wasn’t done speaking out against the injustice in the world, as he goes after the conservatives, with a revenge track called, “Secret lives of tigers.” While breaking down the album during a one-hour special on Beats 1, Williams explains why he chose to publicly call out the “right-wing” folks:
This next song is called ‘Secret Life of Tigers’ and it is the revenge to the sickness that’s going on in the conservative group of people in this country. This is the fucking revenge. The conservative people have no idea that their kids [are] doing drugs and rebellion against the fact that they are against immigration, the fact that they are against their children’s right to choose between what it is that they want to do, all of those things. These kids are out there partying like fuck you, you’re going to die, and we’re going to grow up and take over this country. And to me when I look at those teenagers that are partying that hard … I look at this situation [and] I say it’s the ‘Secret Life of Tigers.
No_One Ever Really Dies is thought provoking and its listeners can draw both inspiration and conversations of world issues and solutions. A new era of protest music from the uplifting message in “1000” featuring rapper Future, to the auditorially ambiguous “Rollinem 7’s” with Andre 3000. The album leaves a taste of both intellectualism and good ole’ neptunes brilliance.