2017 was quite the year for our music. With practically everyone dropping a project and previously under the radar artists blowing up, it’s safe to say we got a little something from everyone and may even have become fans of someone new. New Music Fridays have officially become a thing now and the Friday of December 15 was especially stacked with projects coming from Jeezy, BROCKHAMPTON and Eminem. All of them dropping at the same time was a lot to keep up with, but there was another album coming from a group that hadn’t released any real (we’re not counting the SpongeBob movie songs) music in like 10 years. That group was N.E.R.D. Consisting of members Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley, N.E.R.D blends hip hop, rock, pop, funk, jazz and everything in between to create their distinctive sound. Was this album worth the hype? Let’s get into it.
This album without a doubt is a contender for album of the year for 2017. Slipping in late in the year, some may not consider it. But I say, “how can you ignore it?” This album’s production is 10/10 easily. With enough beat changes that you may even forget what song you’re listening to and enough variety, there’s something for everyone. Whether you like the high energy bounce of “Lemon” or the psychedelic transcendence of the second portion of “ESP” or the fast paced speed of “Rollinem 7s”, it’s hard to pick a favorite track. With so much going on in the production it may be hard to focus on the lyrics of the project which should not be overlooked. Pharrell discusses the state of our country and formulates one of the most creative anti Trump tracks of the year (2017) on “Deep Down Body Thurst.” We also hear him giving us some motivational messages of self confidence and energy to achieve one’s goals on several tracks. We also hear him slip in some double entendres and references that may fly over your head the first time you hear it because you’re too busy dancing. The features of this project are all well done and each person fits right in on their respective tracks – even if they may seem surprising to some (Gucci Mane, Future AND Ed Sheeran!). We also get two verses from Kendrick Lamar on two separate tracks with each one only continuing to prove why he’s at the position he’s at.
Ad libs can make or break a song. Nowadays it seems songs are built around them…but anyway – this is a place where No One Ever Really Dies somewhat overstays its welcome. Sure they fit the energy of the song, but I can guess we get to hear Pharrell say “Hey!” or “Yeah!” at least 50 times by the time the album is over. Once you zero in on it, it can get pretty distracting and even annoying. Also, his background low volume ad libbing seems unnecessary at points to me. “Rollinem 7‘s” hook is fun but repetitive and the beat change in this track is much needed. It somewhat reminds me of “Numbers On The Boards” by fellow Virginia native Pusha T in terms of its unorthodox beeps and bops. The last track, however, titled “Lifting You” is a drastic change in tempo and vibe from the rest of the project and personally seems out of place. Perhaps it’s the “cool down” track? Or, they just wanted to have an even 12 count tracklist? Ed Sheeran sounds good on the track but his smooth singing is a great contrast to the various shouting and rapid fire rapping we’ve heard up to this point. Also…what’s up with the album artwork??? This may not matter to some, but in comparison to the music on the project…the cover is repulsive. The subject matter of it is pretty much for US, yet there’s a white girl on the cover. But I’m sure we all used tin foil/gum wrapper as grillz at one point in our childhood, so perhaps I’m just missing the point. Lastly, I’d like to question why Shay Haley and Chad Hugo are only credited for a total of 6 of the 10 songs on the album. For a N.E.R.D album, there seemed to be little involvement from the group as a whole. Where Chad is credited it is only a small contribution and Shay only has verses on two songs. Overall, it seems to be a Pharrell album with a little help from his friends who just happen to be members of a group he was famous with back in the day. Only thing missing was his trademark four count start.
In conclusion, No One Ever Really Dies is a fun, high energy and socially conscious album. It showcases a sound that may be odd to some but wonderful to others. There are high moments all over the project with very few and little low ones. Definitely an enjoyable listen.
Final Score: 8/10