Harell Willliams is a common denominator of songs such as “Happy”, performed by him, “Get Lucky”, by Daft Punk, to which he also provides vocals, “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar and Britney Spears’ hit “I’m a Slave”. 4U”, among others. Williams, songwriter, musician and producer, 50% of the production duo The Neptunes and turning fifty, is one of the leading figures in music in recent years.
“I had a mother and father who encouraged me to pursue music, but at the same time they were realistic about it. It kind of just happened, to be honest,” Williams told Time Out seven years ago about early memories of him being music-related, making him want to go down that path. “I can’t (put together) an inspiring special story. It was mainly my parents who didn’t bust me when I wanted to. They didn’t put too much pressure on me either.”
Williams, who was born on April 5, 1973 in Virginia, in the United States, was a percussionist in the school band. “Pharell was incredibly talented and loved to play percussion,” Alan Sharps, head of the Princess Anne Elementary School band, told The Sun in 2012. “He ventured into rap, but he was eclectic in his musical tastes. and brought a lot of energy to the music band,” he said.
In beginning band classes, Williams bumped into Chad Hugo, who played saxophone. “Then we moved from that area and I never saw Chad again,” the musician recalled in an interview with CBS. The next time he saw him he was attending Independence Junior High and his teacher had sent him to be evaluated for a program for children with artistic abilities. “And there I chose the music and I go for the percussion and I meet my teacher Ralph Copley and I take a look and I see Chad playing the sax.” Then both musicians would meet at the band’s camp and go to Hugo’s house to play and make little songs for fun.
And the fun gave way to the production duo made up of both, The Neptunes. A talent scout working for producer Teddy Riley noticed them at a school pageant and soon set Riley on his trail. The Neptunes were gaining space in the studios as producers and composers for different artists.
In 2001 they produced “Steal Away”, by Mary J. Blidge; “I’m a Slave 4U”, by Britney Spears, and “Hot in Herre”, by Nelly, a year later. In 2003 they signed “Rock Your Body”, by Justin Timberlake and “Drop it Like It’s Hot”, by Snoop Dogg in 2004. In some of them, Williams himself was the creator of the lyrics, helped by Hugo on occasions.
CHASE A FEELING.
“There are different ways to do it,” he told Time Out about how he writes a song. “I want to chase a feeling, something that just feels right. And from there, lyrically, the music just kind of sets the template for the words. Feeling directs all creativity. Rhythm comes first. My job is just to listen to it and let it tell me what it should be fed lyrically, where the percussion should go, where the melodies should go.” Interestingly, he commented, she composes some of his best pieces in the shower. “Probably a third of the songs I wrote came from my showers.”
In the early 2000s, Hugo and Williams joined forces with rapper Shay and formed the band NERD, which released five studio albums: 2002’s “In Search of…”, “Fly or Die” two years later, “ Seing Sounds”, in 2008 and “Nothing”, in 2010, and a last work in 2017 titled “No_One Ever Really Dies”. As a solo artist, Williams has two albums released: 2006’s “In My Mind” and 2014’s “Girl.”
Williams has been nominated 39 times for the Grammys and has thirteen wins. In 2004 The Neptunes were named Producers of the Year and won first Gramophone for their production of Justin Timberlake’s Justified album. In 2007 he won another award, this time for best rap song for the song “Money Maker” with Ludacris and produced by The Neptunes.
In 2014, he collected four awards, including Record of the Year and Album of the Year. His last victory to date dates from 2019, when he was recognized as producer of the year and “Sweetener”, by Ariana Grande, won the award for best pop vocal album. In addition, he has been nominated twice for an Oscar, for best original song for “Happy”, part of the soundtrack of the film “Despicable Me 2”, and for best film for “Hidden Figures”, whose production and soundtrack he participated.
Passionate about fashion and design, Williams has received a great gift as before his 50th birthday, when he was appointed the new creative director of the men’s section of the prestigious French house Louis Vuitton.