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Pharrell - In My Mind (Star Trak / Interscope)

Pharrell - In My Mind

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating

By Ivan Rott

Pharrell - In My Mind (Star Trak / Interscope)

Pharrell - In My Mind © Star Trak

So, it's no surprise that expectations flew out the roof when Pharrell announced that he would be releasing a solo album. Originally planned as a double-album (one disc hip-hop, the other r & b), Pharrell's In My Mind was haunted by several missed release dates and "revisions," until its release date on July 25th, 2006.

Since the mid-to-late-90's, Pharrell Williams alongside childhood friend and fellow Neptune, Chad Hugo, have been producing records for some of the biggest names in the music industry; with a sound that is harder to categorize than it is to vilify. With an innovative approach to genres like hip-hop (Jay-Z, N.O.R.E., Snoop Dogg), r & b (Babyface, Joe, Toni Braxton), rock (Papa Roach, the Rolling Stones), r & b (Babyface, Joe, Toni Braxton), and pop (Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake), the duo climbed their way up to the upper-echelons of the record-producing scene. In fact, a survey once found that at one point, 43% of the music being played on U.S. radio was produced by The Neptunes.

On paper, In My Mind's track listing looks impressive, with guest spots from Gwen Stefani, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nelly, and Kanye West. Sure, Mind shows off P's ability to draw such big league players, but does it truly stack up to the high expectations it drew.

"Can I Have It Like That" kicks off the album with a funk-influenced sonic that definitely knocks. Unfortunately, guest Gwen Stefani's presence is hardly felt, as she simply murmurs those five tedious words: "You got it like that." The following track, "How Does It Feel?" demonstrates Skateboard P's bouncy, fast-paced lyrical prowess as he spits: "We just picture thinking, dreaming, scheming, bleeding, reading, all in the late night / Shaking, boiling, lacing, baking, shaping, reading, all in the late night / Shaking, boiling, lacing, baking, shaping, shaving, gotta get this cake right / As I serve it, you just burn it, breathe it, learn it, now watch you take flight," wrapping it up with thuggish braggadocio: "N***a, you don't know me."

In My Mind benefits when Pharrell gets emotive on tracks like "Best Friend" ("My best friend say I'm bottled up, I need a f****n therapist / But I can't think of nobody I wanna share this with.") Lyrically, the track is impressive, as P paints a vivid picture of his childhood.; the beat, on the other hand, is lackluster. "Our Father," a poignant tribute to Jesus, has a genuine feel to it.

Unfortunately, there are quuite a few duds on the album. "Raspy Sh*t," with a chorus essentially ripped from his very own verse on Snoop Dogg’s "Drop It Like It’s Hot," lacks lyrical depth, though the laid-back bass-heavy beat certainly has a fresh and pleasant vibe. "You Can Do It Too," the requisite rags-to-riches song, comes off as an uninspired attempt. With dull lyrics and laid-back jazzy rhythms, this song just may be your ticket to Yawnsville.

What about the collaborations? Pharrell certainly picked great artists to hop on his tracks, but did he choose the right lineup? In My Mind's hip-hop guests, with the exceptions of Kanye West, all have a long track record with Pharrell and/or The Neptunes. From Slim Thug and Snoop Dogg, to Jay-Z and Pusha-T (of Clipse), each artist has enjoyed breakout success with the help of Skateboard P. It’s inevitable, therefore, that prior collaborations will be compared to the new ones; just line them up and play them out head to head: Slim Thug’s “I Ain’t Heard of That” outweighs In My Mind's “Keep It Playa”. Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” outshines In My Mind’s "That Girl." If you're still keeping score, In My Mind gets creamed, and I’m not talking about Pharrell’s sneakers.

With Mr. Star Trak flying solo, it’s easy to distinguish and appreciate the influence Chad Hugo brings to the boards. Though, production on In My Mind is, for the most part, solid, it still lacks…something. Guest spots from unpredictable artists and/or up-and-coming emcees (Lupe, where were you?) would have probably worked better this album. I wholeheartedly applaud Pharrell for his effort, but in my mind (pun intended) Pharrell’s solo debut stands nowhere near either N*E*R*D's In Search Of… or Fly Or Die. Thankfully, a new N*E*R*D album is expected to drop in the summer of ’07. All I can say is: ‘yessir.’
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