Review Summary: He sings, he raps, he produces. Guess which one Pharrell is actually good at? (hint: it's not the first two)
The Neptunes popped up around the beginning of twenty first century, and have since been pumping out slick hits. Neptunes were great, however, because of a couple reasons. One of the few production crews in rap to really throw away the use of samples, and have influenced a lot of producers today. Also, the groups ability to pick sound drum beats is much appreciated, as opposed to hearing the same drum beat for every rap song, we get something a bit switched up every time. We aren’t talking about The Neptunes here though, we are talking about Pharrell, the more famous of the two. The Neptunes as a duo worked together because it kept both members in check, not allowing Pharrell’s eccentric love of Prince and pop really seep into the music too hard, and also not allowing Chad Hugo to really go all out in his weirdness. Pharrell is allowed to take full control of the project, and that’s where this whole project goes to hell. In My Mind
is not something I completely expected, instead of something Neptunes-esqe, or even anything half-hooky or memorable, we get an utterly slippery, polished to death mess from a guy that probably doesn’t, but we wished knew better.
Just like The Neptunes, In My Mind
attempts to display two sides, but unlike the duo, it sounds so inconsistent and uneven. Pharrell attempts to be a really hardcore rapper, spending money like he could just pick it off of a tree, but he also tries to be a pop vocalist with an intense addiction to his girl (“That Girl” and “My Angel” is where he gets most straightforward) , himself (“Our Father”, which has a line where he says his dad is Jesus), and his toneless attempt at a falsetto. This would be fine, as a lot of charismatic, skilled modern rappers of today try to portray both of those images. The problem, in essence, is that Pharrell isn’t that. He’s a self-professed nerd, he’s the whitest guy in the rap business this side of Asher Roth, and every time he says the N-word it makes his guests that much more awkward. It’s a train wreck to hear him transfer these personas, making the switch from the first half to the second half a true blunder.
As a rapper, Pharrell is absolutely unconvincing. “How Does It Feel” and “Show You How To Hussle” place Pharrell under instrumentals he just can’t keep his tempo under, the former especially. Pharrell’s whispy, smooth voice doesn’t sound like it fits these high paced, energetic clap rap tracks. Basically, his voice (which doesn’t really fit rap too much) seems to be the only positive of his rapping ability, with his light-weight, sort of rhythmically engulfing flow and technically weak writing. How he delivers it all, though, makes it all the more unbelievable. Every time Pharrell goes onto arrogant, out-of-this-world boasting, he never bothers to make these raps with a wince of believability, just switching from this pimp, player persona to the R&B side of the record with no hesitation. Pharrell does not sound comfortable as a rapper, which might be the reason he released mostly songs from the R&B side of the record as singles. Despite that, though, the only highlight of the record comes from this first half. “Raspy ***” features a droopy bounce that gives off a casual, jokey vibe, which allows Pharrell give his *** talk without a scent of believability and sound fun instead of obnoxious. Mixing that with his easy best catch phrase from the famous Snoop Dogg song being used as a hook, we get a song we kind of saw Pharrell making, and it’s the easy stand-out.
The major blunder of the record, however, is how badly the R&B side of the record sinks. The severe lack of grooves, make this pop music without a backbone, just slippery, withering synthesizers and pianos with fluffy, lovey lyrics that SOUND like a couple hundred thousand calories. What Chad Hugo brought to the table of The Neptunes was the taste in unique drum sounds, but instead, Pharrell seems to be so utterly distracted by twinkly and pretty sounds, that he forgot to put together a decent rhythm section. What seems to truly wreck this side, however, is Pharrell’s voice. Pharrell does his usual, obnoxious Prince falsetto, and tries to stick it in every inopportune moment. When he doesn’t do that, he tries his dandiest to sound like Kenna (On “Young Girl”, with the most uncomfortable Jay-Z appearance ever recorded next to “Anything” off Kingdom Come
), which falls flat to the ground. Not a single highlight comes out to play in this half, not even when we expect it to. Kanye doesn’t sound awkward with Pharrell, but the eighties gliss gloss of the track make it not only dated, but also cheesy and confused. The music here is so squeaky clean, it’s just way too much.
That’s essentially what it comes down to on this record. Everything is done just too much, overcooked to the point of burning. The rapping, despite being aided by utterly ace instrumentals as shown by “Show You How To Hussle” and “Raspy ***”, is fake. Pharrell’s gangsta/player posturing is laughable at best, and simply disastrous and awkward at worst. When Pharrell sings, it’s even worse, as nothing he seems to do is anything original, instead trying to swipe vocal styles from past artists or ones that he’s too familiar with. It’s a real shame In My Mind
turned out the way it did, as Pharrell is a talented producer, he really is, and that shows even here. It’s just too sparkly, too washed up, too much of a good thing behind the boards. If this record tells us anything, it’s this: Pharrell would be an ACE janitor.