Pharrell has found time in his never-ending production schedule to work on a new solo record, which he says will be rap-free. “That’s the difference between 30 and 40. ‘Cause I was 30, now I’m 40 – and I’m not rapping,” he said in an extensive, career-spanning interview in Complex, explaining one of the ways the new album will differ from its predecessor, 2006’s In My Mind.
The interview also offered a look at Pharrell’s upcoming production work, specifically a handful of new songs with Usher, including one that features a guest spot from T.I. The new material will follow-up a characteristically massive year for Pharrell, who became the 12th artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to claim both the number one and two spots thanks to his work on both Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk‘s “Get Lucky.”
“I’ve never been on the forefront of such a huge thing – done by the people, by the way,” Pharrell said. “The people vote for the songs, they pay for the songs, they stream the songs, they look at the videos. So my point is that my understanding of what I was supposed to do, what I could do, had been turned inside out. That’s my life.”
Pharrell also spoke about another one of his high-profile 2013 collaborators, Miley Cyrus (he contributed the cuts “4×4” and “#Getitright” to Bangerz), and the controversies that have followed her as she’s transitioned from a Disney darling to a full-fledged pop star. “Yeah, it’s tough to be that age, and to have to make all those decisions yourself,” Pharrell said. “And it’s the people you’re surrounded by, too. I’m not worried about Miley. I’ve seen her soul in action. I know her voice, her voice is crazy. I keep saying it to everybody: You gotta remember, she’s 20 years old and enjoying her life. She’s enjoying her freedom.”
Of his own come-up, Pharrell mentioned how important both Diddy and Kurt Cobain were to him as high school kid in Virginia who enjoyed hip-hop as much as skateboarding and listening to punk. Hearing Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Diddy’s “The Benjamins” represented moments of liberation from cultural expectations, inspiring him to pursue his own music with the same attitude.
“I always had this ‘I ain’t got nothing to lose’ attitude,” Pharrell said. “Because I didn’t have much. The confidence to go out and march to the beat of my own drum was a lot. But as a child, I didn’t know that was a lot. No matter what my mom told me about being different and special, you go to high school and realize you got to pick a team. And because I didn’t belong to one, it was, ‘I’m going to do this, fuck it.’ So when I was given the opportunity to write Teddy’s verse for ‘Rump Shaker,’ it was like, ‘Alright, fuck it.’ And then as we continued, continued, and continued, it just kept going.”