“Pharrell’s a pharaoh, peep the features” – NAS, BBC – Magna Carta…Holy Grail (Jay Z, 2013)
In 2003, I heard someone named Pharrell Williams rap-sing Frontin’ on my radio… and I’ve been hooked on him ever since. After running out to buy N.E.R.D’s In Search Of…, and an obsessive search for all things Pharrell, I was shocked to find out that Pharrell (and Chad Hugo) had been responsible for some of the best and most creative sounds to hit hip hop, pop and rock in recent memory. Pharrell instantly became my style icon and personal “cool-guru”. He’s the type of guy that doesn’t have to flaunt how cool he is. He. Just. Is. That. Cool.
Despite being one of the world’s most sought after and successful producers, I’ve always seen him as a sort of underdog – playing second fiddle to the larger than life acts that he supported, nurtured and created massive success for. For his fan-base – Pharrell is a creative and commercial juggernaut. He’s penned or produced some of the most familiar and popular hits of the past decade, working with established artists like Madonna, Jay Z, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, and Justin Timberlake (to name a few). He crosses genres flawlessly and travels in all groups – never seeming out of place.
The summer of 2013 was the summer of Pharrell Williams. With the two biggest singles of the summer: Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, Pharrell seemed to be everywhere – his voice rasping out of my radio, his beautiful face gracing my TV and YouTube page. No complaints here.
“Beautiful…I just want you to know…” – Pharrell, Beautiful – Paid Tha Cost To Be Da Bo$$ (Snoop Dogg, 2003)
On September 21, Pharrell showed up to the Yorkdale (Toronto) Holt Renfrew to celebrate and discuss 10 years of Billionaire Boys Club (BBC). The pop-up shop on from September 21 to the end of October, features limited edition BBC pieces (including its spin-offs BBC Black, Bee Line, Billionaire Girls Club, and an exclusive Holt Renfrew collaboration), and a showcase of Pharrell’s memorabilia and designs. This was it…I was finally going to be in the same room as one of the coolest guys in music – and he didn’t disappoint.
Exuding effortless cool as he rode an escalator down to the interview stage, he was decked out in a camo BAPE jacket, blackout shades, leopard print Céline sneakers, patterned denim, blinged out Lorraine Schwartz bracelets and a dark camel fedora (seriously though – who else could make that work), he was suave, calm, collected and… cool.
Tanya Kim of eTalk Canada (in a ridiculously uncharacteristic “Pharrell-inspired” look) interviewed Pharrell on his love of fashion, his fashion line, his music, and his art. It wasn’t a ground breaking interview – but the audience was transfixed.
I’ve seen Pharrell in concert – on stage he’s charismatic and larger than life, but in a more intimate setting (as intimate as a giant store packed with people can be) – Pharrell is charming as hell (in the words of Sade….a smooth operator).
“There are a lot of beautiful girls out here,” Pharrell said, to screams from the crowd. “When you come to Toronto, you know there’s gonna be girls here.”
Ugh…Pharrell…you charming bastard.
From his work in music, fashion, design, and even film, you can tell that Pharrell is obsessively creative – he talked about his love of fashion and his admiration of people who “do their own thing”. He cares about clothes, but he doesn’t presume to be the authority on style.
“I don’t hold the banner for what’s considered style; I wave one for people who dress creatively despite what people think.”
It’s easy for people with Pharrell’s level of success and fame to sit back and just put their name on a product. What’s clear from Pharrell’s interview is that he’s proud of the work he’s putting into his fashion line, his music, and his brand. He’s incredibly humble, and spoke about the joy of collaborating with “people who are more talented than him”, and gave a lot of credit to his team, the artists who inspire him (in fashion, design and music), and his fans. Referring to artist Jeff Koons, Pharrell said:
“His work isn’t complete, it’s complete when you react to it. BBC comes to fruition with the work of my amazing, genius team and the manifestation of you guys.”
“It’s the people. It’s not me. And I am, more than anything else…I just want to say thank you. Look what you guys did to Blurred Lines. What you did to Get Lucky. What you’re doing for Lose Yourself to Dance. Look what you guys have been doing for me and my family for all these years. Thank You.”
Thank YOU Pharrell – for constantly surprising us with new projects.
“These are good people. These are honest people. They will show you the door. When they’re sick of you, you will look at iTunes and see what they think and feel about you. The door will be closed. Thank you for leaving it open”
The interview ended – and after battling through the crowd, my friend Syl and I were ecstatic about the dream that is Pharrell. It had been an unbelievable day – so we decided to explore how the other half lives (Holt Renfrew being a super trendy and pricey store that I usually don’t shop in). In our exploring – we ended up on the second floor, in the women’s section (read: mature womens section). As we tried to make our way further into the store – a police officer asked us to make some room…. I thought “what for?” …. and like sunshine on a cloudy day – Pharrell Williams was walking towards us! It was a moment suspended in time – but in real life – it probably only lasted for a second. Syl and I went into instant star-struck stupor…which we shook free of in time to gasp out “HI PHARRELL!!!!!”. And just like that – he stopped and smiled – my heart stopped and my jaw dropped. Probably not the most eloquent response to someone you’ve idolized for so long (maybe next time I’ll get my act together). Just as quick as he came – he was escorted out. I also heard a member of his entourage say “those girls looked like they were about to die…”. True story man. True story.