Release date: March 23, 2004
Building on the successes of their debut LP, In Search Of..., N.E.R.D. once again sought to redefine the sound of hip-hop and pop music with the follow-up album, Fly or Die. Exploring funk, soul, alternative rock and more, the group's second release tip-toed between genres, coming off as a progressive pop album of all forms that resisted arrest from any critics looking to pigeonhole the group. The album got solid reviews, not great ones, but looking back, it's evident how ahead of their time these genre-benders were.
Fly or Die was the work of underground artists who had finally made it.
Fly or Die wasn't N.E.R.D.'s highest-charting album (that was Seeing Sounds), nor did it put them on the map in the way that their first record did. Fly or Die was the work of underground artists who had finally made it. Now that Pharrell, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley had made it to the big time, they were ready to reap all the rewards that the top had to offer. On "Maybe," they enlisted ?uestlove and Lenny Kravitz to assist with the instrumentals. Joel and Benji Madden are featured on the upbeat and sugary pop jam, "Jump." Is that hip-hop? Hell no, but it's not a lot of other things either. And that ability to make a coherent sound out of countless influences is what makes any N.E.R.D. release worthwhile. Fly or Die is no exception.