November 01, 2017  

Point Blank Selects: Ten Essential Productions by The Neptunes

A few days ago rumours began swirling of a new N.E.R.D record after billboards and flyers were spotted with the caption No_One Ever Really Dies.

The band have since dropped their new single ahead of their live reunion this weekend: Lemon ft. Rihanna. It is predictably big.

We thought it a perfect opportunity to round up 10 of the best tracks that band members Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo have done over their career. As The Neptunes, the duo pretty much carved the musical zeitgeist into whatever shape they pleased from the century’s inception, and their influence has hardly wavered. As we wait for the album, read on for a list of the most seismic productions from some of the best to ever do it.

Kelis – Caught Out There

Kelis’ Kaleidescope not only announced the arrival of the singer herself, but was the first big statement that The Neptunes were a force to be reckoned with. The duo weren’t exactly new to the game, having worked with Teddy Riley of Blackstreet since the early 90s, but this was the first sign that in the golden era of superproducers (Kanye West, Timbaland, Just Blaze etc) The Neptunes would stand tall.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard ft. Kelis – Got Your Money

For an artist as unique as ODB, it’s no mean feat to have produced his most memorable record (Ok Shimmy Shimmy Ya aside) but that’s what this is. Kelis makes her second appearance on this list already, which goes to show how closely tied her career is with Williams and Hugo’s. The bassline on this is pure Neptunes too, providing the blueprint for so much of what came later.

N.E.R.D ft Lee Harvey & Vita – Lapdance

We had to include at least one N.E.R.D track, though it’s not strictly The Neptunes. After much deliberation, we settled on the first single, because c’mon…. It’s the neatest encapsulatuion of the hard rock edge to the N.E.R.D output, it had a famously controversial video, and there’s something perfectly sinister about those loungy keys going on in the backrgound.

Britney Spears – I’m A Slave 4 U

When Britney shed her girl-next-door image, it was The Neptunes who were called on to provide the beats. The Neptunes had worked with huge artists before, but in 2001 it didnt get bigger in pop than Britney Spears.

Justin Timberlake – Like I Love You

After Britney, The Neptunes were tasked with flipping the image of another member of Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club. Along with Timbaland, whom The Neptunes had actually worked with when just starting out as S.B.I, though they never released any records, they reinvented the former N’Sync singers persona. Like I Love You was reportedly written for Michael Jackson but combined with JT’s admiral imitation, the flamenco guitar and metallic drums, it was a classic nonetheless.

Nelly – Hot In Herre

By now, in 2002, The Neptunes ran pop music. The previous summer they were named Producer of the Year by both The Source and Billboard, and they went on to produce a string of massive hits in 2002 by Beyonce, Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Royce da 5’9″ and so many more. Arguably the biggest single of that year though, was Hot in Herre, and era-defining track and never topped by Nelly.

Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl

If this list was one track long, that track would be Hollaback Girl. The original, the instrumental and all kinds of edits are still consisntently played in megaclubs and dingy basements alike. The drums, lifted from Queen’s We Will Rock You never fail to sound enormous.

Snoop Dogg – Drop It Like It’s Hot

Stripped back and lazy, perfect for showing off Snoop’s laidback raison d’etre, with that iconic clip-clop beat. The Neptunes at the very top of their game.

Kendrick Lamar – Alright

Pharell originally wrote the hook for another rapper, and even when picked up by Kendrick, nobody could know how powerful the track would become. Adopted by Black Lives Matter and chanted at protests across the USA and the world, Alright became a rallying cry, crowed in defiance of police brutality against people of colour everywhere. Pharrell and The Neptunes have been involved in tracks that were bigger, but none have been so vital.

Skepta – Numbers

After so many years, having worked on film scores and even with Daft Punk, Numbers showed Pharrell could still make hard-hitting tracks with an international outlook. On the record that served as both victory-lap of and blueprint for, second coming of grime, Pharrell’s influenced is still felt.

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