Pharrell Biography: Life and Career of the Rapper and Producer

Pharrell Biography: Life and Career of the Rapper and Producer

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Born April 5th, 1973 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Pharrell Williams started playing in bands during high school. With The Neptunes, he produced successful tracks for many artists, most notably Britney Spears and Madonna. While continuing to produce, he formed a side project called N.E.R.D and released a few albums. Pharrell has also released solo material but has found the most success as a producer and featured performer. In this video, we take a look at the life and career of Pharrell.

Early Bands

Pharrell Williams was born on April 5th, 1973 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. His musical interests started in high school, where he was featured in several bands playing a variety of instruments, including drums. One of these groups was The Neptunes, and they were noticed by music industry professionals at a talent show in the early 1990s.

Producing With The Neptunes

Pharrell started off producing songs with fellow Neptunes member, Chad Hugo, for various rap and R&B artists. A few examples of these tracks include: Blackstreet’s “Tonight’s the Night” and Mase’s “Lookin’ At Me.” But it was the success they achieved for producing the 1998 Noreaga track, “Superthug” that gave them their initial exposure and really showcased the early Neptunes sound.

Success as Writers and Producer

At this point, the duo was turning into a heavily sought-after production team. They developed their skills on Kelis’ debut album, Kaleidoscope, as well as on Mystikal’s hit single, “Shake Ya Ass.” However, it was with the 2001 Britney Spears’ single, “I’m a Slave 4 U” that they got their first international number-one hit as writers and producers.


Williams and Hugo then formed the side project, N.E.R.D. with Shay Haley. The band released their debut, In Search Of… in 2002. The album had been released in Europe a year earlier, and that version featured more hip hop influences. The 2002 re-release featured a more rock-inspired sound and received fairly positive reviews.

More Producing with The Neptunes

That same year, The Neptunes earned a number one U.S. hit by producing the Nelly tune, “Hot in Herre.” They were also behind the extremely successful effort, Lord Willin’, from Clipse, as well as Justin Timberlake’s top twenty single, “Like I Love You.”

"The Neptunes Presnt...Clones" and Jay-Z

2003 saw the release of a Neptunes-produced compilation that featured songs from various artists, called The Neptunes Present…Clones. The album debuted at the top spot of the Billboard 200 with help from the hit “Frontin’,” which featured Pharrell himself performing alongside Jay-Z. The Neptunes had previously worked with the rapper when they produced tracks for his 2002 album, The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse. The Neptunes then went on to remix a track on the Daft Punk album, Daft Club.

Grammy Awards and Another N.E.R.D Album

In 2004, The Neptunes were recognized at the Grammys for their production work. That same year, N.E.R.D released their sophomore disc, Fly or Die. The funk rock record received generally favorable reviews and spawned the single, “She Wants to Move.”

Solo Debut

Pharrell’s debut solo record came out in 2006. In My Mind received mixed reviews and featured a slew of guests, like Gwen Stefani on the single, “Can I Have it Like That” and Kanye West on the track, “Number One.”

N.E.R.D Record Produced by The Neptunes

The Neptunes then produced Clipse’s critically acclaimed second effort, Hell Hath No Fury, that same year. Two years later, N.E.R.D’s third album, Seeing Sounds, dropped. Produced by The Neptunes, the album received mixed reviews and contained the single, “Everyone Nose (All the Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom).”

Producing for High Profile Artists and "Despicable Me"

This was followed by a string of more production work for artists such as Madonna, Shakira, and Jennifer Lopez. Pharrell also wrote and performed several songs on the soundtrack for the 2010 animated film, “Despicable Me.”

N.E.R.D's Fourth Effort

N.E.R.D also released their fourth album, Nothing, in 2010. Receiving mixed reviews, the record generated the singles, “Hot-n-Fun” and “Hypnotize U.”


As a producer, singer, rapper and fashion designer, Pharrell has shown he is a multi-talented artist with much to offer.