Beats, rhymes and life are three of the corners where hip hop intersects. Few other TV shows have been able to cover all of these angles in-depth and authentically quite like REVOLT TV’s “Drink Champs,” which thrives on its candid conversations with the biggest and most influential figures in the game. In honor of such a one-of-a-kind show, REVOLT will be recapping each weekly “Drink Champs” episode, so you can always catch the gems that are dropped in each lit interview.
On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN welcome one of their most esteemed guests to date: Pharrell Williams. First climbing up the industry ladder along with partner Chad Hugo while working under the tutelage of music legend Teddy Riley, he and Hugo would brand themselves as the Neptunes, and become household names on account of making hits for the likes of JAY-Z, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, and Clipse just to name a few.
By the early aughts, Pharrell emerged as an unlikely star in the making. Launching his own solo career with his 2006 debut, In My Own Mind, he has become one of the most acclaimed and beloved producers and creatives of his generation.
To help give fans a recap of the episode, REVOLT compiled a list of nine things we learned from the Pharrell Williams “Drink Champs” episode. Take a look at them below.
1. On N.O.R.E.’s Evolution As A Creative
Having known and worked with N.O.R.E. for nearly a quarter of a century, Pharrell has witnessed his growth from a grimy Queens-bred lyricist into a multimedia titan. “First and foremost, congratulations on the continuation of your career,” the super producer tells N.O.R.E. “And when I say continuation, I mean, we’re all pluralists, and somehow when you’re in the music industry, they convince you to only focus on one thing because they feel like they only want you to pay attention to their interest. And eventually, the people in senior leadership positions of these companies recognize that these other potential revenue streams for these artists could also be contributors to the marketing, to their partnership. But you saw this early, you were on this early. I remember when you were talking to me about it, like, ‘Yeah, I’m thinking about going into this thing,’ like, ‘I got this idea, I got this concept.’ The point is, you were the first to do that and you stayed focused until you realized exactly how you could really grow the audience and monetize it, and I think that’s beautiful.”
2. On His Love For “Drink Champs”
Mentioned on numerous episodes of “Drink Champs” as one of N.O.R.E. and EFN’s most anticipated guests, Pharrell’s appearance was a longtime coming, but was by no means a reflection of his fandom of the show. “I want to also say that I am grateful that you would even wanna have me on here ‘cause I think you guys talk about things that are [dope],” Pharrell shares. “I feel like y’all bring interesting guests on here who really really say things that sometimes shock people, sometimes enlighten people and I feel like I’ve always been like that about myself. I don’t really find myself interesting, I’m always interested in the people I can collaborate with. So, I always felt that I would be, like, a boring interview.”
3. On Meeting Chad Hugo And Being Discovered By Teddy Riley
Pharrell may largely be a solo act nowadays, however, he will always be linked with his Neptunes partner and close friend Chad Hugo. “We met when we were like 12, started making music when we were like 15, 16,” Pharrell says. “We got discovered when we were in high school, so once we got out of high school, we went right in with Teddy Riley. When they say [we emerged during the] early ‘90s, the first thing we ever did was ‘Tonight’s The Night’ by Blackstreet, and that was written by Tammy Lucas. She’s the reason why Teddy paid attention to us by the way. She went to Teddy and was like, ‘Yo, you gotta pay attention to these guys.’”
4. On Teddy Riley’s Work Ethic
Pharrell and Chad caught their big break following their introduction Teddy Riley, which the megastar says was a period during which he got his crash course in the unorthodox rhythm that musicians create in. “My first time meeting Teddy, it was like 11’ o’clock at night, which, this is the first time I realized people in the music business are vampires,” Pharrell recalls. “People talk to me about being a vampire, these guys are vampires. They literally wake up in the evening and the session doesn’t start until 11, sometimes 2 o’clock in the morning and then they go until it’s, like, 8 o’clock in the morning. You’re leaving the studio, you’re listening to what you just did. That was a new world to me. Teddy showed me there was a nocturnal world of creativity, I never knew that. We work like we went to work, we worked in the daytime and shit, but it’s a very real thing.”
5. On The Controversy Surrounding “Rump Shaker”
Given his involvement in the creation of the record, it’s been rumored that Pharrell is the actual creator of the instrumental for Wreckx-n-Effect’s 1992 smash “Rump Shaker,” not Teddy Riley. However, while he admits to writing Riley’s rap verse on the record, Pharrell debunks the theory that he was the ghost producer. “Before ‘Tonight’s the Night,’ my first time meeting Teddy, he was working on ‘Rump Shaker.’ Tt was like 11 o’clock at night,” he remembers. “They had everything, Aqil [Davidson] had put his verse down, Markell [Riley] had his verse down and Teddy was like, ‘Yo, I heard you rap?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He was like, ‘Can you write my verse for me?’ I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ So, I went in and I don’t know, thirty, forty minutes, [it was done]. People mistake that, [me making the beat]. But no, I could’ve ever made that beat. That beat transcended genres to me.”
6. On How Being From Virginia Fueled The Neptunes’ Grind
During Pharrell’s rise up the music industry ranks, Virginia was still finding its footing within the rap game and had yet to become the fertile ground for legendary talent that it’s known as today. The boardsman speaks on how coming from V.A. helped fuel his grind in spite of success stories like that of Mad Skillz during that era. “We were just finding our way. I think for us, more than anything, we were like, ‘Man, we’re from Virginia, we don’t know how long this is gonna last.’ Like, take that opportunity and really excavate all the opportunity out of it that you can. It’s like, ‘Yo, I’m working with guys out of New York, I’m in Virginia.’ There’s no Def Jam in Norfolk, there’s no RCA in Virginia Beach. [Mad Skills was one of the few that came out of Virginia], but he was up the road, so we weren’t really around him like that.”
7. On The Origins of N.E.R.D.
Pharrell speaks on the origins of N.E.R.D. and how it served as a conduit to exercise his and Hugo’s creative inhibitions at full tilt. “N.E.R.D. was created because for a very long time, we were trying as artists as the Neptunes to get a deal,” he reveals. “But, that never happened because I was way too out there and too crazy. And time wasn’t ready for me and I wasn’t ready for time. So, the context just never made sense, but then...it just started. My influence being out there more with the way I dress and just, like swagging and saucing on other people’s records and shit, the market started to warm up and pretty much, the gatekeepers, the A&Rs, it had to be their idea first... So, by the time we met Kelis and we put her album out over at Virgin and she came out, and she was a success, they felt like, ‘Well, what about you guys, why don’t you guys make a record?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I don’t wanna make a record called the Neptunes, at this point, we’re known as production. We need to be something else.’ And that’s when No One Ever Really Dies was born, which was N.E.R.D.”
8. On Not Liking Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” At First
During his conversation, Pharrell drops the bomb that he initially felt that “Beautiful” was a great song, but far from the runaway crossover hit it would eventually become. “With Snoop, it was like, man, he came in on his tour bus and he was like, ‘Yo, just gimme that shit, P’ and I was like, ‘Okay,’” the producer says. “And we were working in there, and then once I was ready, he would come down off his tour bus ‘cause we were still working in Master Sound [Studio] at the time, it was Hovercraft [Studio]. Chad and I had bought the studio. And when he came in, we did ‘From tha Chuuuch to da Palace.’ He loved that, and he really loved ‘Beautiful.’ I didn’t get ‘Beautiful’ mainly because I was on there singing flat as fuck and just didn’t hear it. I thought it was a fun record and then we put Charlie Wilson on it, I was like, ‘Man, Charlie sounding amazing and this feels good to me, but no one’s ever gonna go for this, so eh.’ I thought ‘From tha Chuucuh to da Palace’ was harder, and then when that record popped, I was like, ‘Wow.’ And Snoop’s always been that guy that’s like, ‘Yo, take me there. I trust you.’ You can tell he’s worked with a season, a really seasoned genius producer who is really our generation’s greatest producer of all-time, which is Dr. Dre.”
9. On His Love For Characters in Hip Hop
Pharrell has worked with a laundry list of rap artists. However, he reveals his particular affinity for artists who have a balance of aggression and humor. “Malik was really good friends with Rob Walker and he was like, ‘Yeah, it’s this guy N.O.R.E. You should check him out,’” he says of his initial introduction to the “Drink Champs” host. “And I knew who you were because of ‘Bloody Money.’ When I heard ‘Blood Money,’ I did not understand ‘cause there’s not too many thuggish characters who are really dedicated to being a character as much as they’re dedicated to being a thug. There’s you, there’s Cam’ron, there’s just different guys. There are new guys that I like today, they go into character and I just really love what they do and their verbs are great, but it’s the idea that they’re willing to go there. DaBaby has that, Blac Youngsta has that, like, they stay the character the whole time. A Blac Youngsta TikTok is as funny, entertaining and as hard as his songs.”