by Aaron Tian
Pharrell may very well be the most dynamic artist the modern music industry has ever seen. We’re talking about the man had soccer moms worldwide belting the words to “Happy” then dropped a verse on Future’s d-boy anthem “Move That Dope” only three months later.
Though he’s made a big name for himself as a solo artist, some of Skateboard P’s greatest work has come from collaboration. Whether it’s as a producer, writer, rapper, or otherwise, Pharrell has teamed up with everyone Beyoncé to Dr. Dre to NSYNC. If you have been conscious for any part of the last 20 years, there’s a good chance Pharrell has gotten your ass up out of a chair and onto a dance floor.
Though it was a difficult process, we’ve taken a look back at his illustrious career and carefully narrowed down our list of Pharrell’s 13 Greatest Collaborators. Check out Part 1 below:
13. Chad Hugo – The Neptunes
Without this man, there is no Pharrell. Together, Chad Hugo and Pharrell formed legendary production duo The Neptunes, whom Rolling Stone ranked #1 in their list of hottest producers of the 2000-2010 decade. Chad Hugo is the spotlight-shy sidekick who crafted the iconic sound we now colloquially refer to as Pharrell’s, and as such, deserves just as much recognition for everything they’ve accomplished.
The two first met and started making music together in high school. By 1992, they were writing and producing singles for prominent artists like BLACKstreet and Mystikal. By the early 2000’s, every major artist was desperate for a Neptune’s produced single. In 2005, the two formed the legendary Star Trak Entertainment, which would later sign Snoop Dogg, Clipse, and countless others before its eventual decline. Without spoiling the rest of our list, suffice to say that these two would go on to work with many of the decade’s most prolific artists.
12. Britney Spears
Yes, Britney and Pharrell have done songs together. Yes, they are fire. The two first joined forces on her third studio album, Britney, with The Neptunes produced “Boys” as well as radio hit “I’m A Slave 4 U.” With Chad and Pharrell on the boards and Britney at the top of her game, the song and video were an instant success.
They would go on to do a few more songs together, including a remix of the aforementioned “Boys” for the soundtrack of Austin Powers in Goldmember OST and “Why Should I Be Sad? (AKA Stupid Things)” which featured production and vocal accompaniment from Pharrell. Though their time together was brief, Britney definitely made the most out of it.
11. Busta Rhymes / P. Diddy
Busta and Diddy both have their respective jams with Pharrell (Diddy’s “Finna Get Loose” and Busta’s “Light Your Ass On Fire” come to mind) but none that compare to the 2001 super-collab which was “Pass the Courvoisier, Pt II.” As the hook promises, this instrumental really does “make a n*gga want to jump, jump” with its Latin-influenced guitar and trumpet melodies, Diddy and Busta’s back and forth flow, and Pharrell’s unmistakable vocals.
Rarely are club records like this able to keep parties hype so long after their heydays, but this track is a rare exception. Today, over 14 years later, “Pass The Courvoisier, Pt. II” still sounds as fresh as the day it was released.
10. Hans Zimmer
Another unexpected twist in the list, Pharrell and famed movie soundtrack conductor Hans Zimmer have actually worked together on a number of full length features, including the soundtracks to Man Of Steel, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the score for the 84th Annual Academy Awards, and of course, Despicable Me 1 and 2. Zimmer was reportedly so wowed with Pharrell’s musical approach during Despicable Me that he continued to invite him back, setting him down in the studio with everyone from Johnny Marr to an experimental drum circle of over a dozen drummers and 8 pedal steel guitar players.
As put by Zimmer on his time with Pharrell, “At [his] center is a steadfast real concern for the human condition, and the charm he brings to his work is grounded in genuine love for his fellow man.”
9. Daft Punk
If there’s anything that really separates Pharrell as an artist, it’s his ability to incorporate various sounds into a cohesive, working texture. The difference in tone between Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Pharrell’s “Gust of Wind” demonstrates perfectly how adept these two artists play to each other’s strengths. “Get Lucky” is a minimalist disco-pop groove while “Gust of Wind” leans heavily upon strings and percussive elements, yet they both contain distinct elements from Pharrell and Daft Punk’s catalogues and they’re both catchy as hell.
8. Gwen Stefani
Gwen has shown her flexibility both within No Doubt and as a solo artist, but some of her most unforgettable bangers definitely came from her work with Skateboard P. Their first big success post-No Doubt came in the form of “Hollaback Girl,” a song which they wrote together in response to the doubters of Gwen’s ability as a solo artist (in addition to some shade from Courtney Love).
The Neptunes would go on to produce a majority of Stefani’s follow-up solo project The Sweet Escape and in return, she contributed some unforgettable hooks to Pharrell’s “Can I Have It Like That” as well as a few of his side projects. Even today, their friendship lives on as they cohost The Voice (hooray for happy endings).
7. Tyler the Creator
Pharrell was one of the first big talents (after Kanye) to pick up on this young talent, and their work together has been very colorful. Tyler has often cited Pharrell as one of his biggest influences, so it makes sense that their styles would be compatible.
They had worked on a few tracks together in the past (Pusha T’s “Trouble On My Mind” and Frank Ocean’s “Golden Girl”) but had not done a full-fledged duo track until “IFHY” on Tyler’s second album, Wolf. In my mind, this song/video combination is one of the most definitive moments of his young career. Everything from the visuals’ color palette and plot to the gorgeously layered synths scream Tyler. When Pharrell comes in for the climax at the end, goosebumps are inevitable.