“Because I’m Happy … Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof … clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” Before I go any further in this article I have to give credit to my sister Stacie, who recognized this song as the global hit it would become back when it was first released last fall … YOU WERE SO RIGHT!
Okay, back to our guy Pharrell Williams.
You can’t turn on a radio, television or even tune into the NBA All-star Game or the Oscars without seeing or hearing Pharrell singing his hit song “Happy.” Originally released on the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack last year, “Happy” is currently sits at #1 on the Billboard 100 chart and was nominated for an Oscar (unfortunately it didn’t win). And it is featured on his (really good) second studio album titled G I R L that was released March 3rd.
Pharrell is EVERYWHERE it seems, but he is not as new to the music seem as some fans think. For those who have followed his 20-plus year career, they know that he has written and produced quite a few hits as part of The Neptunes (also featuring Chad Hugo) for an array of artists in all genres of music. While Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love You” are infectious, yes, let’s take a look at 15 songs you may be familiar with, but had no idea they are were created by Skateboard P himself.
1). Use Your Heart by SWV (1996)- Sisters With Voices scored a big slow-jam hit (the song peaked at #6 on The R&B/Hip Hop Billboard Chart) on their second album “A New Beginning” with Use Your Heat the summer of 1996. They were at the peak of their career while the song’s producers and writers The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo) were just getting started.
2. Girls Dem Sugar by Beenie Man (2000) -Beenie Man was already an established reggae star when Pharrell and his producing partner Chad Hugo crafted this song featuring singer Mya for his album Art and Life in September of 2000. It proved to be a crossover hit for him (hitting #16 on the Billboard R&B Chart) and also doing well internationally, making it into the Top 20 on the UK Chart.
3. I’m a Slave 4 U by Britney Spears (2001) – Before Pharrell made music magic with her ex Justin Timberlake, he gave Britney some heat for her third album “Britney” and helped to grow-up her sound. FUN FACT: This song was originally written and produced by the Neptunes for Janet Jackson, who passed on the song. While the song was Spear’s first lead album single NOT to crack the U.S. Top 10 chart, who can forget how she performed it with a live python around her shoulders at the 2001 MTV Awards?
4. Hella Good by No Doubt (2001)– If you are a fan of Pharrell’s band N.E.R.D. you know he can rock out with the best of them, so it’s not really surprising that he collaborated so well with No Doubt on their fifth album. Skateboard P gave the rock band a Top 20 US hit and helped the slang term for “very” become part of the mainstream.
5. Wait A Minute by Ray J feat. Lil Kim (2001)- Before he was known for making Kim Kardashian famous, Ray J was blessed with an out of this world track from The Neptunes that gave him the R&B credit he was striving for. With Lil Kim in great cameo form (rumor has it they dated briefly after this song) “Wait A Minute” was a great club banger with Pharrell’s signature beat-heavy sound on full display.
6. Work It Out by Beyoncé’ (2002) – Pharrell produced Beyoncé’s first solo song!! Who knew? Die-hard Bey-Hive members are aware that Pharrell and Chad Hugo were responsible for this song from the movie soundtrack to Austin Powers In Goldmember where the Queen Bey played Foxxy Cleopatra, but this an interesting tidbit to the general public. The song was not a commercial hit but Pharrell can still take credit for giving Beyoncé’ her first song all her own to first shake her shimmy to.
7. Say Something by Mariah Carey (2006) – Mr. Williams helped the Diva’s freeing efforts by producing this breezy track featuring Snoop Dogg for her comeback classic album The Emancipation of Mimi. This was the first time The Neptunes collaborated with MC and was the seventh single release off the album. It wasn’t a huge hit on the charts but it did include a high profile video set in Paris that Pharrell was featured in as Mariah’s love interest.
8. Caught Out There by Kelis (1999)-Before he was a household name Pharrell was finding and launching new talent on his Star Trak/Virgin record label in 1998. Kelis was one of his first. Before she shared her “Milkshake” with us and told us she was “Bossy”, she debuted with this kiss-off anthem in late 1999. The Neptunes produced and co-wrote the whole Kaleidoscope album this song was featured on.
9. Lookin’ At Me by Mase (1998)-The Neptunes and Bad Boy? Sounds like a match made in late 1990’s heaven. This third and final single from Mase’s debut “Harlem World” album has the familiar guitar and bass kick that Pharrell has become known for. The song was a commercial hit for Mase, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard 100 and was one of the first high profile songs The Neptunes made.
10. Tonight’s The Night by Blackstreet and SWV (1994) – At the start of their career, Pharrell and Chad were mentored by another super-producer, Teddy Riley. So when Riley’s then group Blackstreet released their debut self-titled album in 1994, Riley gave them a co-producing shot with this song.
11. “Right Here [Human Nature Remix)” by SWV (1993) – “It’s the S-Double- U-V!!” Everyone knows that classic line from this SWV song, but you may not know that it’s a young Pharrell Williams saying it? He also is cited as one of the songs producers.
12. Girlfriend by N’ Sync (2002) – The Neptunes have the honor of saying they had the privilege of producing the last single this boy band ever released. This might explain how Pharrell was tapped to produce the bulk of lead singer Justin Timberlake’s smash solo debut later that year. The song did well, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, had a remix featuring Nelly, and was a strong swan song to the group’s heyday. And a testament to just how versatile Williams is.
13. Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani (2005) –This chant-inspired song was what The Neptunes crafted for the No Doubt front woman’s solo album in response to her being called a “cheerleader” by another singer. It ended up being one of the top songs of the year and gave Stefani a new audience in the clubs and in the hood. It also was another number one single and Grammy nominated hit for Pharrell and the first song ever to sell over one million digital downloads. That’s bananas (B-A-N-A-N-A-S)!
14. Wanna Love You Girl by Robin Thicke (2005) – Before he dominated 2013 with Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke was just another struggling soul singer trying to find his audience. Pharrell gave him the song that would do just that with this lead single off his second album The Evolution of Robin Thicke. Even though the song lacked chart success, it still put Robin on the path of blue-eyed soul salvation and that was all due to Pharrell’s vision for the singer.
15. Rump Shaker by Wreckx N Effect (1992) – Before you check-baby, check-baby Teddy Riley’s credentials on this song, no Pharrell didn’t produce this eternal party jam. But he did write Teddy Riley’s famous verse on the song including the classic “It’s Teddy, ready with the 1-2 check-a, Wreckx N Effect is in effect but I’m the wreck-a!” Who knew that that line would kick start the pristine, multi-decade career of one the best ever producers in modern music? I guess musical genius recognizes musical genius.