Friday, September 08, 2006

In My Mind This Was Very Surprising

It is hard for a producer to step away from the board and into the booth. Only a few have been able to make that transition successfully: Dr. Dre, J Dilla, and Lil Jon (ok, he doesn't rap 99% of the time but he does make hits just by screaming on the track) are just a few. When I first heard that Pharrell was putting out a solo album I figured it would follow the recipe of the N.E.R.D. album. Hot beats but no real substance. When I popped in In My Mind, I was completely caught off guard by Skateboard P's effortless versatility. The album is a glimpse of what the new hip hop artist is: he produces, he raps, and yes he sings (on key at that). This album is a perfect display of Pharrell's artistic ability and talent, yet it falls short of being a classic because of a couple of tracks that could have been left out of the album in my opinion. His first solo project is definitely worth copping but if you are an ituner I'll humor you with another track by track review.

1. Can I have It Like That ft. Gwen Stefani
This was his first single that burst on the scene well before the album dropped. The production of the track is definitely on point from the horns to the bass and the snare. Along with Gwen Stefani, Mr. Williams created a track that was MTV worthy. Pharrell shows us that his rhymes have stepped up: On and on and, the temperature is warm and I spit heat flashes, ni**az get nauseous/ Bright as a b**ch, so analyze with caution/ When the light hit the ice, bet 100 that you vomit/ And should I mention the fact my Transition is the track/New accession to the vision just to get me where I'm at/Little Skateboard, he too grown/ Ridin' up and down Collins in that that new Two Tone. Yes, Little Skateboard has grown up a bit lyrically.
Prescription: Worth the buy if you don't have it already. Although Gwen Stefani has become the official "down a** White Girl" she's still endearing as she is on Hollaback Girl.

2. How Does It Feel
Over a triumphant trumpet and drum blazed beat, Pharrell takes on a rather confident swagger. Lyrically Pharrell speaks on not having anything: I used to deal with Tito/ But he clowned me and told me that my money's fritos. Then he speaks on making it: Ni**a we boss/He shall not get hot he too frost. He delivers again with clever and witty rhymes. But what really makes this track special is the chorus. He tells us to come up with a plan to succeed in life: My ni**a close your eyes. Just picture yourself just holdin' pies/ Implement a plan and you surely rise. This promised by the man that controls the skies. The inspiration doesn't stop there: We just picture, thinkin', dreamin', scheming, bleedin', readin', all in the late night/ Shake it, boilin', lacin', bakin', shapin', shavin', gotta get this cake right/ As I serve it, you just burn it, breathe it, learn it, now watch it take flight. The second verse is more about the Pharrell of today, "still thumbin' through his life like its drugstore porn." This track definitely has the feel of a party/club banger and it'll probably end up being his next video.
Prescription: Get this track and you will immediately have the desire to bust out in your favorite dance moves. In the words of Missy, "Side effects include, heavy breathing, wild dancing..."

3. Raspy Sh**
The chorus comes from his famous line in Drop It Like Its Hot and the theme of the song is basically telling people to back off. Whether it’s a female trying to be seen with a celebrity: Ma... the way you holdin on me it's a problem/ The f**k you tryna end up in the gossip column. Or when he's talking about getting discriminated against at an upscale restaurant: I walk in brashest certainly the crassest/ The restaurant's classes the owner is a$$es/ S**t my money green like the helmet of a fascist. The track is not about bragging about what he has, instead it’s about not wanting to be used for what he has.
Prescription: Worth a listen, although the message gets overlooked due to the catchy hook, it’s a good listen.

4. Best Friend
Skateboard P is more introspective in this song, telling us about his childhood struggles that just about anyone can relate to. He slowly opens up to his listeners first stating that he is reluctant to see a therapist: My best friend say I'm bottled up, I need a f***ing / I can't think of nobody I wanna share this with/Why should I open up on somebody elses carelessness...[cork pops] There goes the top, ni**a, so here it is. He speaks on issues such as growing up around criminals, not knowing if you're going to fall victim to that. But there was hope because Mr. Williams had his grandmother: My grandma Lucille used to tell me, you about what you weep/ She used to help me with my homework, addiction-subtraction/ Added faith to my life and doubt got subtracted/ Wanna skip ya mind from crying better learn something, son/ You be beatin' on my couches, why don't you try hit the drums. With death comes life, his grandmother passed away and in return he met Chad (other half of the Neptunes). He preaches in this song, letting those guys that are "slangin'" on the corner know that he is just glad that they are still breathing. This is his therapy session and he tells people not to hate him because he has made it:

First pitcure your goal, and repeat 'It'll be mine'
Or f**k it ni**a, just keep imagine killin' me fine
Now you, scruntching your face tryna ace attainment
When you should be tryna find a place to base your shame, ni**a
Sucess is tangible, don't wait for fameI thought you would receive it better if I ain't say ya name
You unsure of yourself, sit still and think
Review those actions if it fit, put your name in the blank

Prescription: This is probably my favorite track on the album because of the lyrical content. It's a glimpse of Skateboard P that we've never seen so it is definitely worth the purchase.

5. You Can Do It Too
Pharrell continues to drop knowledge and picks up where Best Friend leaves off. First off he talks about how he wasn't in the "in crowd" in school and now that he's famous things have changed: I was a marching band, I was a skateboarder/ Jesus made wine, I couldn't make water/ Ox-moronic, I'm here to destroy all you hate hoarders/ You ni**as were cool in school now you ni**as take orders/ I'm not dissin your job/ But now you listen and nod/ Some mount the limit s**t, I know this position is odd. He speaks on things that he owns and how he used to dream about them when he was a teenager. His message is to dream kind of similar to the quote that he has on the back of his CD: Wealth is of the heart and mind. Not of the pocket. This track is more conscious than any other of the tracks on the album but it doesn't ever get preachy. Instead, Skateboard P talks about his own experiences, some of which you can relate to and others that seem far-fetched. Either way you look at it, this track is very enjoyable not only because he delivers a message but also because lyrically it is very clever.
Prescription: A perfect follow up to Best Friend, this track is smooth and perfect to drive with the top down to.

6. Keep It Playa Ft. Slim Thug
This track is exactly what the title says. Whatever you do, "keep it playa." First off Pharrell warns men to keep an eye of their lady because he'll definitely scoop her up. I can't think of anyone else besides Slim Thug to compliment Pharrell's laid back flow: I'm a grown man, Thug ain't the one that play no games witch. No he's not playing games and he lets the ladies know that he is still a young guy (25 years old to be exact) and he's not going to get caught up on a female because he's a "Boss." This track is full of lots of bragging, money counting, and all of that stuff that mainstream America seems to love. It's playful and a good track to escape the previous two tracks and just enjoy two encases having fun.
Prescription: Seems a bit out of place after such a brilliant start. But it's a fun track to bump loud in your vehicle of choice.

7. That Girl Ft. Snoop Doge
Pharrell has admitted that he is bored with being a bachelor and having many different women. This track is a perfect example of the desire that Skateboard P has to find "that girl." As much as he wants to deny his love or run away from it, it always comes back:

You can try to run and hide a room back at ya friend's
You can't lie to yourself when he was in
Sure it hurts when he comes til he touch ya chin

You're in love with that girl

He sings on the bridge and the hook, displaying his versatility of as an artist. But he drops some clever lines that make you smirk: Her friends didn't like ni**as like us/ But I a-rrested the coochie and her feelings got cuffed/ Spider web sex musta got caught up. Snoop Dogg delivers a memorable verse about "forbidden" love: Snoop Dogg's a crip and the girl was a blood. Think of it as "Romeo and Juliet" in the hood of Long Beach, California. Yet the picture that Snoop portrays for us is the classic story of a man falling for the wrong kind of woman: Ain't that Kadija I heard she was a skeezer/ She used to hit them licks wit the visas/When I seen her wit the homies I was like Jesus. This track is the first of many more tracks in which Pharrell shows off his singing skills.
Prescription: Pharrell and Snoop have always had great chemistry. This track is no different. Definitely worth the purchase.

8. Angel
This is Pharrell's love song, well at least one of his love songs. Its "cute" for lack of a better word, it’s witty (i.e. A** like a loaf of bread, you want a slice) and it just has that simplicity to it that immediately draws you in. After the previous track with Snoop, Pharrell takes In My Mind in a different direction. He steps away from his persona, Skateboard P and becomes Pharrell Williams, the R&B artist. The album turns into a late 1980s, 1990s R&B album reminiscent of Teddy Riley where its part R&B and part hip-hop. Angel is the first of many tracks in which Pharrell tries to croon his way into the heart of his listeners but he still tries to keep it playful with "muaf**ka" at the end of the chorus. For any guy that has met this kind of girl or is with this kind of girl, you know that they make you do crazy things, i.e. sing songs.
Prescription: It's not the best of his love songs. It gets old after a while. Only worth purchasing if you're a sucker for love.

9. Young Girl ft. Jay-Z/I Really Like You
As soon as the beat kicks in you're sent back in time to the late 80s, early 90s. Pharrell gives off a Prince vibe with a hip hop twist. He sings about falling in love with a young girl. The hook is very simple and very catchy. The lyrics are a bit repetitive but despite the up-tempo beat, you get a sense of pain that Pharrell has experienced. Then Mr. President himself, S. Carter, spits a very hot 16 reminiscent of Frontin: Cuz ima show you right/ Proper etiquette how to hold your knife/ Keep it competitive with Oprah's ice/ Be like Janet, take control of your life. Their chemistry together has always been great and its no different in this song. After Young Girl, Pharrell brings forth another love song except for in this one he is pursuing a lady: Come and sit with me don't be so quick to leave. Pharrell takes on a little Michael Jackson, I Wanna Rock With You quality.
Prescription: These two songs together are definitely worth the purchase. Jay-Z is probably the best at rap/r&b collaborations. The combination of him and Pharrell never disappoint.

10. Take It Off (Dim The Lights)
This song kind of reminds me of Johnny Gill's My, My, My. I'm not really sure why I immediately thought of that track. Pharrell comes off very smooth, spitting game, trying to seduce a young lady. The hook is great how Pharrell switches up the beat, changing the tempo and mood of the track. It is definitely a track that many children are going to be conceived to.
Prescription: If you're trying to "cut something" this track is for you.

11. Stay With Me ft. Pusha T
The beat to this track had me reluctant to believe a member of the Clipse is on this song. Pusha T on a love song? I didn't know if it could work out. Pharrell delivers more of his romantic crooning as he has in previous songs. I was more focused on how Pusha T would approach his verse on an obvious love song. He shows that even when you're Grindin, a thug needs love too. He speaks on his disappointment in past lovers but admits that it was all worth it because he has found the one that he's gonna "kneel on...but not yet."
Prescription: By this point you are somewhat over Pharrell singing and want him to switch back to rapping. Pusha T's verse is ok but it doesn't feel right to have him on a love track. This track is worth passing over.

12. Baby ft. Nelly
This track is doomed from the beginning. The beat reminded me of Prince's If I Were Yours Girlfriend. It seems to go nowhere musically and having Nelly on it only adds on to the disasater. No offense to Nelly but he doesn't compliment Pharrell very well at all.
Prescription: Don't bother purchasing this. Keep your 99 cents.

13. Our Father
It is Pharrell's confession and affirmation of his faith. Its always impressive when an artist can be true to himself and make a song about God. I have lots of respect for this song because it is very well done.
Prescription: Worth your 99 cents whether you're a believer or not.

14. Number One ft. Kanye West
I don't think I have to write anything about this song. We've all heard it many times on the radio or on TV.
Prescription: Most of you probably already own it.

15. Skateboard P Presents: Show You How To Hustle ft. Lauren
Skateboard P shows us how to hustle. Pharrell admits to never being a drug dealer yet he knows how to hustle like one. I thought the album could've ended after Number One. This track seems out of place and should have been put on the next N.E.R.D. album.
Prescription: Lyrically its decent but just doesn't flow after the previous R&B tracks. You're not missing much.

In conclusion, the best part of this album is the fact that it seems like it is straight from the mind of Pharrell. From his desire to to sing (Young Girl/I Really Like You), to confessionals (Best Friend), to random prayers (Our Father), whatever he does, he remains true to himself as an artist. One thing that plagues this album is the lack of cohesion. Switching from rap to r&b keeps it from flowing as masterfully as I know Pharrell could have made it flow. Yet, there is nothing in the album that causes you to lose interest in the album. Pharrell tries to step away from conventional Neptunes' sounds but its hard for him to escape something thats such a part of him. Despite its mis-steps, In My Mind is an enjoyable album and a nice escape from the hip hop albums of today. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i dont understand how you go from almost classic too 3.5 out of 5 stars. im glad u came to ur senses though.