Unfortunately, Pharrell became an example that no amount of money or status can protect someone from being impacted by police brutality. During a conversation with Town & Country for the magazine’s 2021 Philanthropy Issue, Pharrell recalled being overwhelmed with emotion while burying his cousin who was killed by police officers in Virginia Beach. 

“We had to bury my cousin on my birthday,” Pharrell said. “It was bittersweet. The way he died was bitter. Where he is right now is sweet.”

Pharrell’s cousin Donovan Lynch was killed at just 25 years old on March 26. Lynch was shot by cops who have since given varying accounts of the shooting’s motive. The officers at the scene violated department procedures by failing to activate their body cameras, so there’s no footage of the incident. The nature of Lynch’s death forced the often even-keeled Pharrell to overflow with emotion. 

“I wasn’t able to deliver the speech with the fire and intention I wanted because I was just choked with emotion,” Pharrell continued. “It’s not just the loss of life. It’s also the cause of the loss of life. And it’s a much larger problem, you know?” 

The producer-turned-mogul went on to explain that this “much larger problem” creates an added sense of weight and pressure for Black Americans. “As a Black person, when you’re born in this country, you immediately feel a much heavier gravity,” he said. “The gravity is one that we see in our rules and regulations and laws. We see it in the lack of options. We see it in what we’re fed, what is marketed to us. We see it in broken educational systems.”

He continued: “Knowing that if Donovan had been white he wouldn’t have gotten shot multiple times and left in the street for an inhumane amount of time, till the next morning, no gun in hand—that’s gravity,” he added before admitting he’s “still processing” the loss. 

Although the hurt is still fresh, Pharrell isn’t going to let his cousin’s death be in vain. He, the rest of Lynch’s family, and other advocates are now calling for a federal investigation into Lynch’s death in hopes to have justice served properly.