N.E.R.D. is everything.
They were the bridge that made our generation go beyond the rap music that we were into. Hip-hop had begun to get a little insular again, and they blasted the doors off.
N.E.R.D fans were exposed to a school of thought in which skateboarding, Japanese streetwear, contemporary art, punk and rap were all part of the same thing. There was no need to try and fit into any stereotypes, in fact, the stereotypes weren't even cool. Pharrell, Chad and Shay celebrated being ‘other’: to this day there isn’t a term to describe the sound that they established across four game-changing albums.
With a new self-titled album on the way, we gave some of our favourite artists and creatives the impossible task of choosing their favourite song from N.E.R.D’s incredible back catalogue…
'Fly Or Die' (As picked by Saba)
I have no recollection of my life without Pharrell, so I was already a fan of N.E.R.D the first time I heard ‘Fly Or Die.’ I was really pissed off that I had to go to this scholarship thing at the time, and that was a song that I used to listen to and it used to make me feel less pissed off about it. The lyrics had a very literal impact on what I was going through at the time. I was listening to N.E.R.D every day at this extracurricular shit that I had to do for high school - I used to hate that shit. I hated everybody in it, and I think the song helped me not hate everybody.
'Am I High' (As picked by Murkage Dave)
This song reminds me of when I first moved to Manchester. The crud level was high! I love the beat so much. It feels like you're getting driven to heaven in a muscle car. All the parts of the arrangement are kind of fighting for space but working in tandem like engine pistons. Pharrell's lyrics are sinisterly ambiguous, and then when Malice comes in it becomes the coolest record ever. Just the sound of his voice over those pianos is everything to me.
'Tape You' (As picked by Christian Rich)
Our favourite NERD track is ‘Tape You’ (the UK version). This track summed up our love for the guys. Before we ever met Shae, he was always our favourite because of his verses and ad libs on the album. The clavi sound on this track is great. The chords are everything. The kick and snare add that familiar Neptune sound. The outro strings are brilliant and the fake/real sex overdubs were hilarious. ‘Tape You’ got us through a lot of boring days and kept us musically inspired over the years.