It was only a matter of time before Pharrell Williams released a solo album. As the more recognizable half of The Neptunes, Pharrell has produced/written countless hits for mega successful artists in the Pop and Hip-Hop genres such as Jay-Z, Britney Spears and Nelly. In addition, Pharrell is a member of the multi-genre spanning band N.E.R.D., where he sings, produces and plays drums. But, despite being a musician/producer since before the turn of the century it wasn’t until 2006 and the release of “Can I Have it Like That” that the majority of the world heard anything off of Pharrell’s solo debut. Sure, his voice was already famous due to N.E.R.D.’s popularity and his guest appearances on songs like Snoop Dogg’s “Drop it Like It’s Hot” but this was the first “In My Mind” song released to the world.
Can I Have it Like That
is probably the best song to use as an introduction to In My Mind. Hence, its status as first single and first track. The beat is driven by nothing more than a distorted bass loop, giving it a very dark feel, as opposed to most of the album, which has a much lighter feel to it. Pharrell drops some great rhymes in the verses ( Back in the day my clouds was grey/And it seemed like my angels couldn't blow them away/But then I sold my first verse that cut the NSX /But I was still ridin' in them thin ass jets
) before being joined by Gwen Stefani for a “Call and Response” chorus. Despite the high profile guest star, neat looking video and all of the other previously mentioned attributes, “Can I Have it Like That” barely scratched the top half of the American singles charts.
Pharrell’s original plan for his debut was for half of the album to have a more R&B feel and the other half to have more of a Hip-Hop feel. How it ends up though, is that the album seems to lean a lot more to the R&B side of things, but strangely enough I don’t view this as a bad thing. While usually I’m big on Hip-Hop, the majority of the Hip-Hop tracks on “In My Mind” don’t appeal to me. Sometimes my disliking has to do with bad rapping/lyrics (for examples of both, see Nelly’s verse in Baby
) or maybe it has to do with the beat, like on Keep it Playa
where the melody is driven by the weakest sounding synth part I’ve ever heard. The only other thing backing up said synth line is some marching band drums, no bass at all. To make things worse Slim Thug, the guest on Keep it Playa, delivers a fairly terrible verse of rapping. Of course, there are a couple of exceptions to this. The first two rap tracks, Can I Have it Like That
and How Does it Feel?
are great. The later, like “Keep it Playa” uses marching band drums but, combined with some nice bass work and fantastic brass lines, sounds much better.
So while there are some great rap tracks on the album, the R&B tracks work out much better. You Can Do it Too
, one of my favorite tracks on the album, has a very jazzy feel to it. Brushed drums, walking bass lines and beautiful strings make up one the better beats on the album and Pharrell really delivers lyrically. Whether it be touching on his self-conscious with lyrics like I was a marching band, I was a skateboader/Jesus made wine, I couldn't make water
or revisiting the past in other rhymes, such as I felt the wind from it, that was God cocking back/I got a call from Virginia grandma went back/ The line was fluctuated but it just now went flat/ See her body went down and her soul went up/ She sent angels around me so evil could not touch
You Can Do it Too features some of the best lyrics on the album.
While lyrically, many of In My Mind’s tunes aren’t up to the quality of “You Can Do it Too”, production wise, pretty much every song is fantastic. With the exception of Keep it Playa and maybe one or two others, Pharrell’s production and writing (both of which he does himself) are up to the standard previously set by The Neptunes. He draws from a fairly large area of instruments and influences, for such a mainstream producer. He moves from jazzy bass lines in one song to crunky (word?) synths in the next with ease. Not to mention, he executes both very well. Needless to say, Pharrell’s production is the most consistently good part of In My Mind.
Surprisingly though, Pharrell’s proper debut is somewhat of a disappointment. Sure the production is great and the songwriting is usually just as good, but some tracks just completely flop. Towards the end of the album especially, is where this happens. Album closer Show You How to Hustle
is a decent song, but becomes fairly boring by the end, second single Number One
is another disappointment near the end of the album. Parts of the production are superb, and Pharrell’s singing during the verses is as well but the chorus completely kills the song. “Number One, Smash Hit. Off the Charts, Classic”
Pharrell sings with Kanye West babbling in the background. Kanye’s verse sounds like something that would be off his new album and features some nifty one liners ( Now we fresh as a prince while they Jazzy Jeff
). All in all, while a slight disappointment, In My Mind
does feature some superb tracks and is well worth the 3.5/5
I’m about to give it.