theGrio’s 100: Pharrell Williams, producing the year’s hottest beats

Who is Pharrell Williams?

Pharrell Williams, 40, is a Grammy-Award-winning singer, songwriter, rapper, producer, and fashion designer.

He is one half of the production duo The Neptunes, with Chad Hugo, and has produced music for a range of well-known pop, hip-hop and R&B artists. As well as his production talents, Pharrell is also the lead singer and drummer of the funk-rock band N*E*R*D.

Pharrell was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia and attended Kempsville High School where he excelled at music. Pharrell met Hugo in a seventh grade summer band camp where Williams played the keyboards and drums and Hugo played tenor saxophone.

In the 1990s, Hugo and Williams formed a four-piece “R&B type” group, The Neptunes, with friends Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge. They later entered a high-school talent show where they were discovered by Teddy Riley.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Pharrell was a featured artist on the two biggest songs of the summer – Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” — which earned him the Grammy award for Producer of the Year. He also penned three original songs, alongside composer Heitor Pereira for the sequel Despicable Me 2, including the song “Happy” which earned him an Oscar nomination.

In an interview with theGrio, Pharrell opened up about his creative process, saying he selects his projects based on gut feeling. He aims to fill a void, and creates what he hopes will catch, linger and move.

“I know that I’m blessed, I know that I’m super fortunate, so what I try to do is repay it with diligence and research, and going super hard,” he says. “Finding things that are sticky, but feeling good. There’s a stickiness that pisses you off, too. Like those songs that are annoying, but you can’t get them out of your head. They’re sticky. So I try not to bore you guys with the wrong kind of glue.”

What’s next for Pharrell?

Currently Pharrell serves as a fashion designer for Louis Vuitton as well as his own brand, Billionaire Boys Club, and he’s also designed furniture for the French company Domeau & Pérès.

On top of that, he recently forayed into the realm of new technology by developing a YouTube Channel, i am OTHER, and serving as Creative Director for KarmaloopTV.

If Pharrell wins the Oscar Award for Best Original Song it would put him in rare company. Eminem and Three 6 Mafia are the only hip-hop acts that have won an Academy Award.

Pharrell is working on a new solo album, his first since 2006′s In My Mind. It’s expected to be released sometime in 2014.

Follow Pharrell Williams on Twitter @Pharrell