The Neptunes reign as today's most successful hip-hop production team. Over the last five years, they have helped propel the talents of a number of artists, their punctuating beats and syncopated rhythms fueling a unique sonic aesthetic. They've worked with current chart toppers (Jay-Z, Mystikal, Backstreet Boys), thuggish hip-hoppers (Noreaga) and eclectic performers (soulstress Kelis, Ol' Dirty Bastard). And just recently finished work with longtime superstars (Janet, Mary J Blige, Babyface, Usher) and alternative ska icons (No Doubt). But those are The Neptunes. Now they introduce N*E*R*D and the album IN SEARCH OF…. Mixing everything from hard hip-hop beats to black psychedelic pop to classic rock to new wave, the album brings a beguiling new sound to the pop landscape.
What is N*E*R*D? The Neptunes are who we are and N*E*R*D is what we do. The Neptunes are me and Chad producing and making music for other people. N*E*R*D is me, Chad and Shay, a friend from where we live, Virginia. It's just us; it's our life. N*E*R*D is just a basic belief, man. People's energies are made of their souls. When you die, that energy may disperse but it isn't destroyed. Energy cannot be destroyed. It can manifest in a different way but even then it's like their souls are going somewhere. If it's going to heaven or hell or even if it's going into a fog or somewhere in the atmosphere to lurk unbeknownst to itself, it's going somewhere.
This album is like a life soundtrack. It's a diary of shit we've been through over the last year or two. We're just trying to express ourselves as colorful as possible, as musical as possible. That's what we do, what we've always done. At first, people didn't understand what we were trying to do. I'm talking way back when we were all growing up in Virginia. So we just made our tracks. We always had a distinct sound and people didn't get it at first, especially when we were producing for other people. I guess the sound we had was mainly for our group, our movement. Eventually, people began to realize the sound. Since then we've made a lot of records for other people. When you make records for a lot of people, you have to make records you like to hear them on and they would like to hear themselves on - but then push them to a limit. When you make records for other people you have to take so many things into consideration. But when you're making records for yourself, you already know who you are; you can go as far deep into music as you can go without running into time. You can hold your breath for as long as you can and then come up for air and then go dive into another part of the pool, another part of life.
The outstanding rule with us is "Follow Your Spirit." It's what you put forth when you're making the music, so you gotta follow that instinct God's given you, that internal compass. If you stick with that, it won't matter if 9 times out of 10 your work doesn't go to number one. Just follow your spirit. Things go in cycles and I just hope me and Chad, when the cycles start to turn, we can create something else. Go in different directions. That's what our hopes are, to spread the same mentality we have with making music into other situations in life besides music. We're making music right now to change the world 'cause the world is fucked up. There's a lot of cool things going on right now but there's a landfill of fucked up things about life, man. People don't realize. They don't know the true reasons for their existence and their being, they don't know how they got there, they don't know who put them there, what they're supposed to do. They don't know the meaning. We are trying to show people what it is they feel like they're missing, what it is they feel like they're looking for.
That's why we titled the album IN SEARCH OF…. We want to show you what you might be looking for and, if you don't find it, hopefully this is the first brick in the yellow-brick road to your destiny. IN SEARCH OF… seems like a bland title, but for us it's In search of love. In search of happiness. In search of smiling. In search of that bitch with the big ass. In search of the answer to why my brother smokes crack. It's all of that; it's about being open. We always wanted to do an album on our own, even when we first got discovered by Teddy Riley at our high school talent show. I used to rap back then, I wasn't singing. Chad and I met in the 7th grade [when] we were in the music program together. Chad was just cool. He was a cool motherfucker. He's cool with being different and not most people are. Same with Shay, whom I met in school, too. I knew his older cousin and when he moved away, me and Shay just sort of hung out. He's cool, too, and he sings on this record and helped write some of the songs. When you listen to us, you'll look and say, "Wow, he really said that? They're not really held down by the gun-slinging, ball-grabbing, Mercedes Benz-driving shit." We ain't stereotypes, you know? We grew up around all those different stereotypes in Virginia and out of that we gained awareness. Awareness of diversity.
We call ourselves N*E*R*D because we have a different view of life. A nerd is someone who wants to be cool to everybody but it's not his fault he's witty and smart and his social skills aren't the best. If you ever listen to a nerd speak about their experiences in high school, they tell an ill story. They have an ill perspective because of the shit they've been through. You ask the average person, the kind of people that would tease nerds in high school, you ask them what their life is like and they'll give this bullshit, lame boring ass story you'll snore to. I don't mind being called a nerd. We are the people who are proud of being smart, being witty and being clever when everyone else doesn't understand. That's what we do, that's the flag we're raising and waving.
We're influenced by so much, from Stevie Wonder to Steely Dan, Donny Hathaway to America. I wanted to sing like the guy from America when I was younger and I tried to imitate it on this record. And Queen is the shit. I love classic rock. It's all that, man. Those artists didn't give a shit. The music spoke to you. My family would move around a lot so instead of just hearing Kool & The Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire and The Spinners, I was hearing Lynyrd Skynrd and AC/DC because we lived right by the Renegades, the Hell's Angels. When the new wave shit came around I was listening to things like Tears For Fears.
That's why N*E*R*D is from the heart. When I say the heart, it's like, if you spread your arms out and you put hip-hop in one hand, all the syncopation and hi-hats and drums, and in the other you put all the feeling and psychedelics of classic rock of the '70s. Somewhere in the middle, where they meet is right near the heart. That's where you'll find N*E*R*D - the heart. That's a perfect point of existence for N*E*R*D.