Anyone who follows Tyler, the Creator’s Twitter feed is subject to a lot of jabber and nonsense but also a baffling running thread; anything the Neptunes do is considered on par with Moses handing down the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. Tyler goes so far as to celebrate the anniversaries of the release dates of N.E.R.D’s four albums and of course Pharrell’s only solo album, In My Mind.
This is confusing because for most rap fans the Neptunes’ various albums are considered little more than vanity projects. Clearinghouses for the production team’s bad ideas that it wouldn’t dare try to charge commercial rappers and singers hundreds of thousands of dollars for.
There were high hopes surrounding Pharrell’s first album. Maybe he’d make his version of The Love Below (on Pharrell’s “Maybe,” released on Clipse’s We Got It 4 Cheap Volume 2 the previous year, he cited OutKast as one of his favorite groups over a cover of ‘Kast’s 1995 hit “Elevators (Me & You).")
But critics were dismissive; Rolling Stone said the album was “only so-so, offering a series of modestly tuneful, sometimes snoozy soul-pop-hip-hop songs,” while Entertainment Weekly complained “all of the songs have something in common: They’re not remotely catchy.” But divorced of the high expectations surrounding it, the album is actually solid. Pharrell mostly raps over crisp beats that shift textures constantly.
Meanwhile, Pharrell obviously brought his stuffed Rolodex to the studio, pulling in cameos from famous pals and past collaborators Gwen Stefani, Slim Thug, Snoop Dogg, Pusha T, Nelly, and Kanye West. It’s not worth throwing a party every July 25th, but In My Mind is a great place—to date, the only place—to get a complete picture of Pharrell as an artist.