Visionary recording artist, producer, songwriter, philanthropist, fashion designer, and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams has been a creative force in the music industry and beyond for more than two decades. From his beginnings as a teenage prodigy and multi-instrumentalist in Virginia Beach back in the early ’90s, through enough hits to earn him Billboard’s Producer of the Decade in 2010, to his current status as multi-media superstar, Williams has never stopped creating.
Starting his producing career as one half of The Neptunes with longtime production partner Chad Hugo, Williams has helped create classics such as Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” JAY-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me),” Britney Spears’ “I’m A Slave 4 U,” and Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You.” Over four albums, Williams and Hugo, along with Shae Haley, created an unpredictable hybrid as part of the Virginia Beach alt-rock/hip-hop group N.E.R.D., which recently reunited for 2017’s No One Ever Really Dies. The album debuted with the wildly successful single, “Lemon,” featuring Rihanna, and includes world-class artists such as Kendrick Lamar, André 3000, M.I.A., Future, Wale, Gucci Mane, and Ed Sheeran. In June 2021, Williams will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with Chad Hugo for their work as The Neptunes.
The music industry has honored Williams with 13 Grammy Awards, including 2004’s, 2014’s and 2019’s Producer of the Year, and ASCAP’s prestigious Golden Note Award in 2012. He received a 2017 Academy Award nomination as one of the producers for Best Picture-nominated Hidden Figures, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for co-scoring the film. In 2014, his original song “Happy,” featured in the animated film Despicable Me 2, also received an Academy Award nomination. “Happy” remained atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for ten consecutive weeks, peaking at No. 1 on iTunes in 103 markets worldwide, and was the lead single from his 2014 solo album, G I R L.
In 2008, Pharrell founded From One Hand To AnOTHER (FOHTA), a foundation that provides over 1,700 children across the US with summer camps focused on S.T.E.A.M.M. – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Motivation. Serving predominantly at-risk and low-income elementary, middle and high school students. In the Fall of 2020, Pharrell will launch YELLOW, an organization that will focus on "evening the odds" for every student to have access to a first-rate education.
In addition to his musical and philanthropic endeavors, Pharrell narrated Universal’s 2018 remake of the classic film THE GRINCH, authored the book A Fish Doesn’t Know It’s Wet, and released a new Netflix Original series with his producing partner, Mimi Valdés, titledBrainchild (2018). Past projects include Dope (2015) and Roxanne Roxanne (2017). Next up, Williams and Valdés will team up with Kenya Barris for a stage musical inspired by the Juneteenth African American holiday tradition celebrating the final day of United States slavery.
Not stopping there, Pharrell has excelled as a fashion designer with his Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Creamapparel brands, the textile company Bionic Yarn, Adidas and Chanel. This past fall, he opened a restaurant and cocktail lounge called Swanand Bar Bevy in Miami’s Design District.
In April 2019, Pharrell launched the first ever SOMETHING IN THE WATER, a multi-day music festival and cultural experience on the beach in his hometown of Virginia Beach. The festival’s mission was to unite the community and celebrate the diversity and magic of Virginia Beach. It was an opportunity to bring the best of what Pharrell has encountered around the world back to his hometown. The weekend celebrated opportunity and the chance to empower everyone from the youth to the small business owners. Some of the world’s biggest musicians, personalities, scholars, students, artists, activists and athletes converged on Virginia Beach to activate and amplify, collaborate and co-author, shift and shape the future.
In June 2019, Williams released "Letter to My Godfather," an Emmy-nominated original song for Netflix’s Black Godfather about the legendary music executive, Clarence Avant. Williams also produced five songs on the soundtrack for Disney’s 2019 remake of The Lion King including, “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” “Hakuna Matata,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “Mbube.” Most recently, Williams teamed up with Jay-Z on their single “Entrepreneur,” a song celebrating and empowering Black entrepreneurs.
A longtime advocate against racial injustice, Pharrell was an integral part in the talks with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam about Juneteenth being a permanent paid state holiday. Virginia has long marked Juneteenth by issuing a proclamation, but the date has not previously been considered a state holiday. This June, Pharrell joined Governor Northam at a press conference at which he announced his plans to do just that. Since the press conference in Virginia, Pharrell continues to push other states to do the same and remains at the forefront of the fight for racial equality across the country.
Guests From Episode 5 of Season 7
Join the conversation on #FindingYourRoots