We last heard from the N.E.R.D trio back in 2010 with their “Nothing” album. I read that their new “NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES” album wouldn’t be an easy listen, not to be enjoyed by a faint hearted casual music lover. After listening to the album I understand why. It’s not background music. You’ll either get it or you won’t. It’s busy, it’s loud and it’s messy. It’s phenomenal.
The opening track “Lemon” was subtly hinted to us on Instagram back in 2015 when both N.E.R.D’s executive producer Pharell Williams and Lemon feature Rihanna captioned their posts “Tell the paparazzi get the lens right”. Lyrics from the first single off N.E.R.D’s latest album. Rihanna steals the show as she flawlessly raps (yes, raps) her verse. It’s an irresistiblly energetic track which you can’t help to love, N.E.R.D fan or not.
Third track “Voilà” highly resembles Pharells 2014 hit “Happy” with its funky, pop influenced beats and hook. With Gucci Mane featuring on the chorus and Wale on the final verse accompanied by a change of beat and extra steel drums it’s hard to keep up with which direction the track is going. It’s because of this that the final verse of “Voilà” is my favourite part of the entire album.
When track listings for “NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES” was released I was most excited to see what Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell could do after they worked together to create Kendrick’s multiple Grammy award-winning masterpiece – “Alright“. They created social concerns into a cheerful and upbeat track whilst continuing to convey their message. They managed to do this again on the albums third single “Don’t Don’t Do It!“.
N.E.R.D not only teamed up with Lamar for “Don’t Don’t Do It!” but got the help of Frank Ocean to help co-write one of the funkiest tracks on the album. Inspired by the police shooting and death of North Carolina’s, Keith Lamont Scott. Pharrell explained on his Beats 1 radio show that during the shooting Scott’s wife screamed “Don’t do it”, giving the track its name and hook. Just liked “Alright” Lamar and Williams managed to tactfully tell a serious story though uplifting beats.
The eleven track album includes features from Rihanna, Gucci Mane, Wale, Kendrick Lamar, Future, M.I.A., and Andre 3000, while A$AP Rocky and Mary J. Blige add extra hidden vocals to the ninth track “Kites”. Before a final feature from Ed Sheeran.
Many weren’t sure about Sheeran‘s feature on a mainly hip-hop/rap album, a reaction similar to the announcement of his feature on Eminem‘s latest album “Revival“. But his presence on the reggae themed track “Lifting You” was brief yet effective as he sang the chorus amongst Williams verses.
N.E.R.D are known for pushing boundaries and exploring music in a way that isn’t typically done. This album is no exception. The suspense of not knowing what the next track will consist of is all part of the experience that Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley want to give you. With each track like a musical movie I reckon it was worth the seven year wait.