Pharrell Williams (born April 5, 1973), also known by his mononym Pharrell (/fəˈrɛl/), is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, record producer, and fashion designer. Williams and Chad Hugo make up the record production duo the Neptunes, producing soul, hip hop and R&B music. He is also the lead vocalist and drummer of rock, funk, and hip hop band N*E*R*D, which he formed with Hugo and childhood friend Shay Haley. He released his first single "Frontin'" in 2003 and followed up with his debut solo album In My Mind in 2006. His second album, Girl, was released on March 3, 2014.
As part of the Neptunes, Williams has produced numerous hit singles for various recording artists. Williams has earned eleven Grammy Awards including two with the Neptunes. He currently owns a media venture that encompasses entertainment, music, fashion, and art called i am OTHER, a multimedia creative collective and record label that serves as an umbrella for all of Pharrell Williams' endeavors, including Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream apparel, Billionaire Girls Club, textile company Bionic Yarn and a dedicated YouTube channel launched in 2012. The channel was launched on May 12, 2012 as part of YouTube's $100 million original channel initiative.
Williams was born on April 5, 1973, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the oldest of three sons of Pharaoh Williams, a handyman, and his wife Carolyn, a teacher. His roots extend for generations in Virginia and North Carolina, and one of his ancestors journeyed to West Africa in 1831, prompting other relatives to emigrate from America to Liberia in 1832. He met Chad Hugo in a seventh-grade summer band camp where Williams played the keyboards and drums and Hugo played tenor saxophone. They were also both members of a marching band; Williams played the snare drum while Hugo was drum major. Williams attended Princess Anne High School where he played in the school band; there he got the name Skateboard P. Hugo attended Kempsville High School.
In the early 1990s, Hugo and Williams formed a four-piece "R&B-type" group, the Neptunes, with friends Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge. They later entered a high school talent show where they were discovered by Teddy Riley, whose studio was next to Princess Anne High School. After graduating from high school, the group signed with Riley.
Through working with Riley, Williams went on to write a verse and help produce for Wreckx-N-Effect's 1992 hit "Rump Shaker". That same year, he also performed a small rap solo on SWV's second hit, "Right Here (UK Remix)". Williams and Hugo met rap duo Clipse in Virginia Beach in 1993, where they were signed to Arista Records through Williams' Star Trak Entertainment imprint. In 1994, Hugo and Williams had established themselves as a production duo under their old name "The Neptunes", and assistant-produced "Tonight's The Night" from Blackstreet's self-titled album. Over the next three years they continued to produce occasionally, and some of the results had little resemblance to the Neptunes' sound later. However, some like Mase's 1997 song "Lookin' at Me" from his album Harlem World, and the most definite beginning of the distinctive "Neptunes sound", came with N.O.R.E's "Superthug" in 1998, reaching number 36 on the Billboard Hot 100, and gaining them widespread attention for the first time. In 1999, a mutual friend introduced Williams to Kelis, and their resulting collaboration produced her first album Kaleidoscope.
At this point the Neptunes were gaining a wide fanbase and audience. In 2001, the Neptunes produced Britney Spears' single, "I'm a Slave 4 U" gaining their first worldwide number one. The same year, N*E*R*D, consisting of Williams, Hugo and Haley, released their first album, In Search of..., in Europe, where the first Kelis album was better received. The album sounded very much like their previous production work; the group decided that they should make their work as N*E*R*D sound different, and re-recorded the album with the rock band Spymob.
The Neptunes released a self-credited album called The Neptunes Present... Clones in 2003, with songs and remixes from various artists. This topped the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart. The Neptunes and Williams specifically were also kept in public eye largely due to ties with Jay-Z, producing several hit singles for him and two tracks on his The Black Album. The track "Frontin'" was a big hit (the 34th biggest of 2003 according to Billboard). A survey in August 2003 found the Neptunes produced almost 20 percent of songs played on British radio at the time, a survey in the US had them at 43 percent. The same year, the Neptunes remixed the Daft Punk song "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" for the duo's poorly received remix album Daft Club. The track also had a brief rap section performed by Williams.
In September 2004, Williams was featured on the Snoop Dogg single "Drop It Like It's Hot." The song would eventually peak at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 two months later, marking Williams's first number one single in the United States. The song was named "Rap Song of the Decade" by Billboard in 2009.
On September 9, 2005, Williams performed the opening single from his first solo album In My Mind, "Can I Have It Like That", featuring Gwen Stefani. The single did poorly in the US, reaching only number 48. It fared better in the UK, reaching number three. Between then and the July 25, 2006 release of In My Mind, he released "Angel" (in Europe only), and later "Number One" with Kanye West. Several songs leaked to the internet before the album release, most notably "Mamacita" featuring Daddy Yankee, which was subsequently cut from the final version. "That Girl" featuring Snoop Dogg was the final single.
A remix album of Williams's solo debut, In My Mind, titled Out of My Mind, was recorded with his newly formed band "The Yessirs" featuring Questlove of the Roots and was produced by Questlove and keyboardist James Poyser. However, Williams's record label Interscope Records did not think that the album would sell well and subsequently was shelved. The album has built up a strong fanbase asking for its release. The tracks started appearing on Questlove's MySpace, and with every 10,000 plays, a new song was made available. As of July 4, 2007, the full CD has leaked onto the internet along with two songs not featured on In My Mind: a remix of "Mamacita" and "Creamsickle".
In April 2008, Madonna released her eleventh album, Hard Candy, which featured vocals from Williams and production from the Neptunes on several tracks. In June, an article in NME revealed that Williams was very interested in producing the Strokes' fourth album. Later that year, Williams worked on a remix album for Maroon 5's Call & Response.
In March 2013, Robin Thicke's hit single "Blurred Lines" was released, which was written and produced by Williams. The song has been a worldwide hit, has peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and has also reached number one in 13 more countries including the United Kingdom and Germany, making it Williams's third Billboard Hot 100 number one single. On June 29, 2013, Williams became the 12th artist in the chart's history to simultaneously hold the number one and two positions with "Blurred Lines" and "Get Lucky", respectively.
On February 18, Williams announced via Twitter that his second album, Girl would be released on March 3, 2014. At the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, 2014, Williams's song "Happy" lost to "Let It Go" from Frozen. Afterwards, when GQ magazine asked Williams "how badly" did he want the Oscar, he responded: "When they read the results, my face was...frozen. But then I thought about it, and I just decided just to...let it go."
The Dear G I R L tour was a European concert tour, in support of his second studio album, G I R L. It was Williams's first solo tour since 2006.
In January 2015, Williams and Al Gore announced that they are teaming up to create a 7-continent "Live Earth" concert on June 18 to raise awareness about and pressure governments to act on climate change. He is the musical director. On February 8, 2015, Williams made a cameo in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Walking Big & Tall" where he comes to Springfield to write a new anthem for the town. Williams recently made three songs for the soundtrack to the The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water movie. He also recorded a song "Shine" with Gwen Stefani for the Paddington Movie. At the 2015 Grammy Awards Williams performed an orchestral rendition of "Happy" with composer Hans Zimmer and pianist Lang Lang that included a tribute to the Black Lives Matter "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" movement inspired by Eric Garner's death and the events in Ferguson, Missouri. In 2015, a unanimous jury determined that Williams's 2013 hit song "Blurred Lines" was an infringement of the 1977 Marvin Gaye song "Got to Give It Up". The jury awarded the Gaye family $7.4 million in damages for the copyright infringement based on profits generated.
In May 2012, Williams launched i am OTHER, a multimedia creative collective and record label; i am OTHER also serves as an umbrella for his additional business endeavors, including a dedicated YouTube channel and apparel/textile lines.
In 2005, Williams partnered with Japanese fashion icon Nigo to create and launch the streetwear brands Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream footwear BBC has flagship store in SoHo, New York City and an official Ice Cream store in Tokyo, Japan. Several stores that retail Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream clothing exist across North America, the United Kingdom and Europe, as well as Asia and the Middle East. Pharrell and Nigo went on to launch the Billionaire Girls Club.
In 2008, Williams co-designed a series of jewelry ("Blason") and glasses for Louis Vuitton. He has also worked on furniture with Emmanuel Perrotin and a French manufacturer, Domeau & Pérès. One of his works, a molded plastic seat with human legs, was created because he "wanted to know what it was like to be in love." The chair depicts a sexual scene with a pair of female legs and male legs.
In August 2013, Williams created a line of sunglasses for Moncler called "Moncler Lunettes".
In 2014, Williams entered a long-term partnership with Adidas.
In February 2014, Williams announced a collaboration between G-Star Raw and his textile company Bionic Yarn called "RAW for the Oceans," a collection of denim made from recycled plastic that is found in the ocean. The project was presented at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
Williams released a collection for retail giant Uniqlo in April 2014 entitled "i am OTHER". It was created with Nigo, creative director of UT, the company's T-shirt division.
Williams owns a non-profit organization called "From One Hand To AnOTHER" (FOHTA). FOHTA is an educational foundation. According to its website, its mission is to "change the world one kid at a time by giving them the tools and resources to meet their unique potential". FOHTA's vision is to modernize the community center concept by empowering kids to learn through new technologies, arts, media and motivation.
Williams married his longtime girlfriend, model/designer Helen Lasichanh, on October 12, 2013. They have a son, Rocket Williams, born in November 2008. The Despicable Me song "Rocket's Theme" was written in honor of his son.
Williams is building a $35 million afterschool center in his hometown Virginia Beach. His charity "From One Hand To AnOTHER'" is a foundation developed for youth between the ages of 7 and 20 in at-risk communities throughout the country.
In an interview for the magazine GQ Style (Autumn/Winter 2013), Williams described his religious views: "On paper I'm a Christian, but really I'm a Universalist." With regard to "those who have concluded that God simply doesn’t exist", Pharrell Williams has stated: "It’s so incredibly arrogant and pompous. It’s amazing that there are people who really believe that".
In 2015, Pharrell put down $7.14 million for a new home, located in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles. It boasts six bedrooms and sits on 1.55 acres (6,300 m2), and features a two-story guesthouse, a motor court, an infinity pool, and deck atop the garage that doubles as an outdoor screening room.