On Dec. 15, N*E*R*D’s fifth studio album, No_One Ever Really Dies, will be available worldwide. It’s been seven years since their last project, Nothing, and if anything, Pharrell, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley’s strong bond has allowed them to create their most political and ambitious album to date. With a tracklist that includes features from Gucci Mane, Wale, Kendrick Lamar, André 3000, M.I.A., Ed Sheeran, and Rihanna, the band are pulling in some famous friends to create another statement.
Before No_One Ever Really Dies drops in full, Pharrell held a private listening session for some trusted tastemakers and musicians. In the clip, you can spot Justin Timberlake, Usher, Puff Daddy, Cassie, and Ariana Grande.
Haley opens with a speech about why they decided to create this album.
“The premise behind the album is to galvanize and inflict a positive, optimistic perspective on the current surroundings. What’s happening every single day that is affecting all of us,” he says.
“The song is about a brother named Keith Scott, who was in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was waiting for his child to get off the school bus. He was waiting in his mini-van. The story goes that he was reading a book and just waiting on his kid. And the authorities were looking for someone, someone that did not fit his description at all.”
He continued, “For whatever reason, they decided to go after him. His wife saw what was unfolding as this was happening. She had her camera phone out and she was taping the whole entire thing. She’s trying to tell them, ‘Hey, he has a TBI – a traumatic brain injury.’ And they’re telling him to put his hands up. She’s saying, ‘Keith, Don’t do it, don’t don’t do it.’”
Pharrell says that after watching the video, he felt compelled to tell the story because even when “you do what they tell you to do, you still end up dying.” Adding his own twist to the narrative, he poises this question: “For all those unarmed motorists that have been murdered, my question is I wonder how many times – not they wife – but their own conscience said to them…when they tell you put your hands up. They want to see your hands, or they tell you to pull over, I wonder how many times their conscious said to them, ‘Don’t do it?’"
It’s a thoughtful response that gives us a better idea of the group’s approach to No_One Ever Really Dies. You can check out the video above, and pre-order the album on iTunes.