N.E.R.D.'s 2001 studio album In Search of... left an indelible impression on Virgil Abloh.

The designer/artistic director spoke about the project in a New York Times piece called The African-American Art Shaping the 21st Century, in which 35 prominent black artists revealed the one piece of work that has most inspired them. Abloh chose N.E.R.D.'s critically acclaimed debut project, which deftly combined elements from hip-hop and funk to rock and electronic. The fact that the project didn't adhere to one specific genre really resonated with a young Abloh; however, he suggests he was mostly influenced by the band's frontman Pharrell Williams, who has built a reputation for stepping outside the box.

"There’s an interview where [Pharrell Williams] classically said, The album is too white for black radio and too black for white radio," he said. "As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, skateboarding and finding my own identity, it resonated with me more than hip-hop on its own. [It said] that it was fine to be in between. And I think that has described a whole generation of young black kids and artists who have since been determined to be themselves and jump through that door that was opened by Pharrell."

He continued: "The prototype at the time was that you had to be a thug or an athlete or a rapper. And then he came along with a different panache as a producer, an artist, a tastemaker, an individual. That sort of held a mirror up for me — it was a new prototype, and it came with a new sound. A lot of the freedom that exhibits in my practice is of that same sort of risk-taking."

You can read the Times' full piece here. It includes Kerry Washington's statements on Beyoncé's Lemonade, Ta-Nehisi Coates on Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.d City, Issa Rae on Scandal, and Jaboukie Young-White on Moonlight.

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