AllHipHop.com: Youve already said that youre reluctant to take credit but youve 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 couldnt 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 Creams first dropped it was about 200 bucks a pair, now youve 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 youre referring to is a skate shoe. Skaters work hard for their money and you cant 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. Thats my home away from home. I love the culture, the mannerisms; theyre just all around good people. Theyre some of the most polite individuals youve ever met in your life. Theyll always put the stranger first. For example, if you have a cold youll walk around with a facemask on-you know the kind that doctors wear? Youll wear one of those because you dont 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 dont know
Its 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 its a pleasure to meet them too. They bow, but I just nod and I shake your hand at the same time, its just out of respect.
AllHipHop.com: Ive never been to Tokyo, but as a Long Beach native, Im obligated to ask whats going on with Terry Kennedy from the Team Ice Cream?
Pharrell: Thats my n***a, hes good. His s**t is looking really great. Were working on a skate show for Team Ice Cream and weve got the DVD coming, weve got a new shoe that were about to debut thatll be a second component to the skate line. Hes got a bright ass future. Im 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 thats how it goes on the Eastside.
Pharrell: He got shot up being in the wrong place at the wrong time and s**t. But, its cool because weve got it documented and weve 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. Its important to keep focus and keep God first and keep your eyes on the prize so you dont f**k around and lose it being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I told him, Yo, youve got a lot of kids looking up to you. That n***as got gangbangers skating now and s**t. Who wouldve 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 whats 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-its incredible those exercises, and I only know because Quincy Jones told me. I love it, I can recognize it but I cant read the keys, I can only read percussion. I was classically trained as a percussion player, thats 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 youre on a plane you wont 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 Im at the piano I play it out. Once I can play it out I can remember it until I can get in the studio. Hes telling me that I can write it on napkins, you know just write down like F-sharp, [laughing] I dont 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-its 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 dont 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 were 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 1s] 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: Its f**kin incredible dude, I cant even tell you. Im the biggest n****s dont know, I dont know how the world perceives me, and I think thats my gift. I dont know how they perceive me so I just kind of do what I do-Im not really limited by what people think I should be doing and sometimes it hurts me, but a lot of times it helps me. Im really, really, really a fan. Seriously, Im like a f**kin fanatic! Im pretty sure you know what the definition of that is, like Im really a f**kin fanatic. Ill be around these n****s like, Oh s**t thats f**kin Q-Tip, yo! Thats f**kin Jay-Z, Elton John. Im that guy, I may not say it as much and they may not believe me when I say it. But, Im 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 hes interviewing me, s**t!
And I told Prince I wanted to work with him and that n***a was like, Umm, okay well just have to have a few conversations first. Im like, Yo, whatever dude youre the king, you dont need me. Youd actually be doing me a favor is what you dont understand, and he just laughed. Im thinking, N***a, Im not asking you to work with me cause you need me. Im 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. Its 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**ts was working.
AllHipHop.com: I guess it all boils down to a respect thing?
Pharrell: You know? Them n***as is kings, they dont need me.
AllHipHop.com: Like it or not, people are looking up to you the same way now. I dont want to lump you all together but you, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, seem to be ushering in a style where its okay to be yourself.
Pharrell: Yeah, but do people really see me that way though? Im not sure. I dont know if people know that Im 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 theyre tuned in to that same frequency, so to speak, dont you think the audience picks up on it?
Pharrell: Hmmm, youre right about that.