N.E.R.D :: In Search Of...
Label: Virgin Records
Author: Jayson Young
Over the past couple of years, it's become obvious that the Neptunes have
got the Midas touch. With more hits under their belts than most producers
can ever hope to achieve in a lifetime, the Neptunes are at the top of their
game, showing no signs of stopping. After producing huge hits for the likes
of Jay-Z, Ol' Dirty, Mystikal, Fabolous, Tha Liks, and countless other rap
acts, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo have even started to branch out into
other genres – just ask No Doubt or Miss Britney Spears, for example. At
this point, the Neptunes have got absolutely nothing to prove.
So now that we've seen them make hits for practically every act under the
sun, it started to become obvious that a Neptunes album would eventually pop
up. And that's what we have with "In Search Of..." But I think it's safe to
say that no one expected a Neptunes album to sound quite like this...
Recruiting long-time friend Shay to collaborate with, Chad and Pharrell have
chosen to go under the acronym N.E.R.D. (it stands for No one Ever Really
Dies). And while "In Search Of..." is a definite departure from traditional
Neptunes fare, it stands up strong on its own. There's still plenty of that
trademark "Neptunes' Sound" that Jay-Z spoke of, but with layers of
hard-rock guitar riffs and drum beats over top. To be honest, "In Search
Of..." really isn't a rap album at all. But being the hip-hop producing
megastars that they are, the Neptunes have more than earned the right to be
reviewed by the Real Double-R.
Let's be straight about one thing though: if you're one of those individuals
who can't stand the Neptunes (and especially Pharrell's singing) in the
first place, "In Search Of..." will not do much to sway you. They aren't
straying that far from familiar territory.
With "In Search Of...", the Neptunes haven't completely changed their sound –
they've merely built on it. It's hard to keep in mind that, technically,
this isn't even a Neptunes record. It's produced by them, yes, but this is a
N.E.R.D. album after all.
The record gets off to a banging start with "Lapdance" featuring Vita on the
hook and newcomer Lee Harvey rhyming. Chances are, if you watch MTV at all,
you've seen the video – "Lapdance" is the album's first single.
Disappointingly, Harvey's verse is the only rap you'll hear on "In Search
Of..." This wouldn't have been disappointing if the Neptunes had fetched a
more talented MC to jump things off, but sadly, Lee Harvey just comes across
sounding like a MUCH weaker Eminem. Looking past that minor disruption
though, "Lapdance" is a very good rock song.
But if you didn't like "Lapdance" though, chances are you won't like the
rest of the album either. Most of "In Search Of..." is in the same vein as
"Lapdance". In fact, its only competition for best song on the record is
"Rock Star" (which, by the way, you may recognize as the theme song from
"NFL Fever 2002" for the Xbox). "Rock Star" is the best example to be found
here of the Neptunes blending hip-hop with rock. It's likely to appeal to
fans of both genres.
Elsewhere, "Am I High" featuring Malice is appropriately trippy; Pharrell
channels Lenny Kravitz on "Run to the Sun"; "Baby Doll" sounds like 70's AM
radio (purely cornball, but intentionally so); and, "Bobby James" is what it
would sound like if Queen teamed up with the Neptunes to do a rock ballad
about a 17-year-old trying drugs for the first time. One of my personal
favorites on the album is "Stay Together", which sounds like the Neptunes
were left in charge of a fucking cracked-out funhouse.
Weaker moments are Pharrell's ballad, "Provider" and "Tape You", a song
about Pharrell videotaping some girls ... exploring each other's business
(gotta keep rapreviews.com a family-oriented site, after all). "Tape You" is
just too grimy for its own good, leaving the listener feeling a bit dirty
afterward. But then, that was more than likely Pharrell's intent.
Specifically, the weakest thing about "In Search Of..." is not Pharrell's
questionable singing voice, but his actual lyrics. If this boy was a
battle-MC, he would be eaten alive by absolutely any rapper you can think
of. But Pharrell is not a rapper – he is a singer. Still, it would have been
nice to see him work a little harder on the lyric side of things.
Basically, "In Search Of..." can be officially considered a success. It's a
musical experiment – a joyride for the Neptunes to go crazy on – and it
works. It definitely will not appeal to everyone who visits this site, but
like they always say, if you like this sort of thing, then "In Search Of..."
may just be the sort of thing you like. Me personally? I'd like to see the
Neptunes carry this rock mentality over into the tracks they produce for
other rap artists. It would be a very nice change of pace, and at the very
least, it would shake things up a bit. That's never bad.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10
Originally posted: April 16, 2002