N.E.R.D.: In Search of… (Virgin)

The musical styles jump from one style of modern black music to another, without thought for the previous or following tracks.

To understand the project that is N.E.R.D., one must understand who they are and what they do. N.E.R.D. consists of: pop producers extraordinaire Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (a.k.a. the Neptunes), a friend and collaborator who goes by Shay, and the live band, Spyboy. Williams and Hugo were discovered during the last decade by famed new-school R&B producer Teddy Riley during a high school talent show. The duo took the name Neptunes because of the god Neptune’s reign over the waters of the world. Just as water consists of three-fourths of the surface of the globe, so do Hugo and Williams aspire to take over the world with their music. These days, the Neptunes boast quite a resume, having collaborated with artists ranging from Jay-Z, Ol’Dirty Bastard, and Mystikal to global pop acts like Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and No Doubt.

Upon first listen to In Search Of… a general reference to an existential search for the self and happiness—the songs seem nothing more than loose collection of tracks put together for the purpose of releasing an album. The bass lines are, at times, very repetitive, such as the similarity between the opening track, “Lapdance,” and “Truth Or Dare.” The musical styles jump from one style of modern black music to another, without thought for the previous or following tracks.

Further listening, however, reveals these initial flaws to be apparent strengths. Williams and Hugo make no attempt to hide the fact that they are, first and foremost, producers, but use their eclectic influences to their advantage. The juxtaposition of the head-noddin’ swipe at modern rockers, “Rock Star,” and the soul ballad “Bobby James” is simultaneously jarring and refreshing. Occasionally, the quality of the beats seem to take precedent over the lyrics and general song structure. But damn, this shit rocks. Kudos should be given to Spyboy, especially the blazing bass work of Christian Twigg and fill work of drummer Eric Fawcett.

Any shortcomings on this record will certainly be smoothed out by the time these gentlemen begin work on another album, hopefully coming to more definitive conclusions about their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to making music, as opposed to sculpting other people’s.

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