Pharrell's N.E.R.D. Is Back, And Rihanna Is Here To Help

Nov 1, 2017
Originally published on November 1, 2017 1:24 pm

N.E.R.D. was an anomaly in the early 2000s, a rock band built on funk, hip-hop and electronic music, but prescient in how we'd not only consume but make music a decade later. It was the brainchild of production duo The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) along with Shay Haley, who understood that the act of fracturing mainstream ideas of pop music could, paradoxically, serve as a connective tissue.

After teasing a return with billboards spelling out its acronym (No-One Ever Really Dies), Pharrell has gotten the band back together. Its first single features Rihanna spitting bars over crisp and spare production that wouldn't be out of place on an early Neptunes joint — drum machine beats snapped shut, synths clipped before heading out into space, and a hook (waitaminute) circulating through the track like a neon moped.

Oh, and if you're wondering who that bad-ass dancer is in the video directed by Todd Tourso and Scott Cudmore (and who gets her head shaved by Rihanna herself), it's Mette Towley. "She walks around with a psychic force," Pharrell said in a 2014 video that introduced his back-up dancers. He ain't wrong.

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