Pharrell: I Dream in Color Part 2

AllHipHop.com: You’ve already said that you’re reluctant to take credit but you’ve played a big role in this hybrid of skateboard and Hip-Hop culture. What do you think of the fact that there are kids with trucker hats skateboarding in Harlem now?

Pharrell: Yessir, it makes me proud ‘cause I grew up like that. I had a flat top ‘cause Cameo was the s**t with “Word Up,” I was a young kid. But, Vans was the s**t ‘cause I went to school with white boys. So n****s wore Vans, the checkerboard Vans, the blue and grey Vans, the pink and greys, the pink and blues, all that s**t. For me that was everyday, [at school] it was like, “Why is your hair like that.” Then when I went back to the ‘hood they was like, “Why you wearin’ them shoes, where your Jordans?” My mom couldn’t afford them Jordans, but Vans were 30 dollars, so I was good. Getting caught in the crossfire was a beautiful thing for me.

AllHipHop.com: Speaking of shoes, when the Ice Cream’s first dropped it was about 200 bucks a pair, now you’ve got the new line for 70, are you consciously trying to scale it down?

Pharrell: Nah, the “two for a pairs” are coming back, we had to do new models. The shoe that you’re referring to is a skate shoe. Skaters work hard for their money and you can’t really bang ‘em in the head for that [$200]. The first pairs you were talking about are the boutique pairs.

AllHipHop.com: Business moves like that must allow you to travel a lot, what area of the world do you most love outside of the United States and why?

Pharrell: I love Paris, I absolutely love Paris-but Tokyo, Japan is my home. That’s my home away from home. I love the culture, the mannerisms; they’re just all around good people. They’re some of the most polite individuals you’ve ever met in your life. They’ll always put the stranger first. For example, if you have a cold you’ll walk around with a facemask on-you know the kind that doctors wear? You’ll wear one of those because you don’t want anyone else to get the cold. When I saw that s**t I bugged out like, “What the f**k is this?” It was just so incredible to me and I was just so inspired I just like, I don’t know…

It’s been like five or six years, but now when I meet people I always shake their hand and look down and bow before them-not all the way, but just a little bit, because to me that just lets a person know that it’s a pleasure to meet them too. They bow, but I just nod and I shake your hand at the same time, it’s just out of respect.

AllHipHop.com: I’ve never been to Tokyo, but as a Long Beach native, I’m obligated to ask what’s going on with Terry Kennedy from the Team Ice Cream?

Pharrell: That’s my n***a, he’s good. His s**t is looking really great. We’re working on a skate show for Team Ice Cream and we’ve got the DVD coming, we’ve got a new shoe that we’re about to debut that’ll be a second component to the skate line. He’s got a bright ass future. I’m just trying to keep him out of trouble, you heard he got shot up?

AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I was visiting out there when that popped off. Unfortunately that’s how it goes on the Eastside.

Pharrell: He got shot up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and s**t. But, it’s cool because we’ve got it documented and we’ve just got to show the kids that you could be trying to do the right thing and get caught up in the wrong bulls**t. It’s important to keep focus and keep God first and keep your eyes on the prize so you don’t f**k around and lose it being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I told him, “Yo, you’ve got a lot of kids looking up to you.” That n***a’s got gangbangers skating now and s**t. Who would’ve though n****s would, not necessarily put their rags up, but kind of put ‘em in their pockets to skate?

AllHipHop.com: Taking it back to the music, when you deal with so many different genres from Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, or even something like Coltrane what’s the one

thing that’s remained constant throughout it all?

Pharrell: You know what…I just love all kinds of music. Speaking of Coltrane, “Giant Steps” is a very generic track in comparison to his whole entire catalogue. But “Giant Steps” in itself was brilliant because the steps he decided to take were incredible. That song is based off of an exercise [The Chromatic Scale] by this brilliant Russian scientist and composer by the name of [Nicolas] Slonimsky-it’s incredible those exercises, and I only know because Quincy Jones told me. I love it, I can recognize it but I can’t read the keys, I can only read percussion. I was classically trained as a percussion player, that’s how I got into music to begin with-when I was in seventh grade. He [Quincy Jones] challenged me like, “Yo, you should really be able to read it, because if you can read it then when you’re on a plane you won’t have to do what you do.” Right now I have to remember it or hum it into my phone until I get to a piano, and then when I’m at the piano I play it out. Once I can play it out I can remember it until I can get in the studio. He’s telling me that I can write it on napkins, you know just write down like F-sharp, [laughing] I don’t even know if there is an F-sharp.

AllHipHop.com: So this is like transcribing music?

Pharrell: Yeah. You can just go into different keys-it’s amazing. I know this is like getting off of Coltrane but that dude was incredible. I love classically trained piano players, the ones that I know of–I don’t know them all, but the ones I know of are great. That s**t is just inspiring to me.

AllHipHop.com: When you put it into that context it sounds like musically we’re only getting the tip of the iceberg, is there some other stuff you want to tap into?

Pharrell: I get different producers to put together iPods for me. I got Q-Tip to put together an iPod for me and [BBC Radio 1’s] Gilles Peterson is currently putting one together for me.

AllHipHop.com: What kind of experience is it to go from growing up listening to A Tribe Called Quest, and then having Q-Tip do an iPod or collaborating on a song?

Pharrell: It’s f**kin’ incredible dude, I can’t even tell you. I’m the biggest…n****s don’t know, I don’t know how the world perceives me, and I think that’s my gift. I don’t know how they perceive me so I just kind of do what I do-I’m not really limited by what people think I should be doing and sometimes it hurts me, but a lot of times it helps me. I’m really, really, really a fan. Seriously, I’m like a f**kin’ fanatic! I’m pretty sure you know what the definition of that is, like I’m really a f**kin’ fanatic. I’ll be around these n****s like, “Oh s**t that’s f**kin’ Q-Tip, yo! That’s f**kin’ Jay-Z, Elton John.” I’m that guy, I may not say it as much and they may not believe me when I say it. But, I’m from Virginia, I never thought in a million years that I would meet any of them n***as, ever.

AllHipHop.com: That really came across when Michael Jackson was giving you the Q&A treatment for Interview magazine…

Pharrell: That was crazy, right? This n***a Michael is interviewing me! Michael motherf**kin’ Jackson, dude. This is the n***a that had the world captivated when that n***a stopped the music after his brothers walked off stage and then [beat boxes and hums the melody to “Billie Jean”]. What? N***a I almost burned a whole in my socks tryin’ to moonwalk. That n***a was the king man, and he’s interviewing me, s**t!

And I told Prince I wanted to work with him and that n***a was like, “Umm, okay we’ll just have to have a few conversations first.” I’m like, “Yo, whatever dude you’re the king, you don’t need me. You’d actually be doing me a favor is what you don’t understand,” and he just laughed. I’m thinking, “N***a, I’m not asking you to work with me ‘cause you need me. I’m telling you I want to work with you ‘cause I need to work with you. I need to be able to say I did something with Prince!” Yes this is for me: me, me, me, me, me, me. It’s selfish, but what do you say to a guy like that? How do you pose that to a guy like that, what is the need for him to want to work with you? This n***a made all kinds of records and was naming them all kinds of wild, crazy, bananas names and them s**t’s was working.

AllHipHop.com: I guess it all boils down to a respect thing?

Pharrell: You know? Them n***as is kings, they don’t need me.

AllHipHop.com: Like it or not, people are looking up to you the same way now. I don’t want to lump you all together but you, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, seem to be ushering in a style where it’s okay to “be yourself.”

Pharrell: Yeah, but do people really see me that way though? I’m not sure. I don’t know if people know that I’m really a backpacker. Do you think they really get that?

AllHipHop.com: I guess it depends on who you ask. It would seem like anyone who analyzes the lyrics would pick up on that-especially an N.E.R.D. album. Aside from the fact that you occasionally mention it, if they’re tuned in to that same frequency, so to speak, don’t you think the audience picks up on it?

Pharrell: Hmmm, you’re right about that.

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