HOLLYWOOD — With momentum back on N.E.R.D.'s side after winning the Shortlist Prize on Tuesday, the group is hoping the third and final single from In Search Of ... will be their most successful.
To top the dirty funk flavor of "Rock Star" and "Lapdance," Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (best known as the production duo the Neptunes) and rapper Shay are going with the smooth, mid-tempo "Provider."
"It's actually about one of our homeboys that was on the wrong path in life, selling drugs and whatever, and chose to straighten up his life and get a job, which at the time was in the Army," Williams said backstage at the Shortlist ceremony (see "N.E.R.D. Win Shortlist Prize"). "It's the same story you hear all the time in hip-hop, we just decided to do it balladish, with a country western hip-hop feel."
N.E.R.D. recently shot a video for the single with Bucky Chrome, who directed both previous N.E.R.D. clips and is the alter ego of Diane Martel (Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey). The clip features cameos from Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, Tony Hawk and several professional BMX riders.
"Me and Pharrell are chillin' on BMX bikes, just riding through the streets, doing tricks and stuff," Hugo said.
Williams and Hugo said they're finished promoting In Search Of ... on the road and are well into recording their next album.
Whether or not "Provider" takes off at radio, Williams and Hugo are certain to dominate the airwaves this fall as producers. Their work has yielded singles for Justin Timberlake, LL Cool J and Snoop Dogg, to name a few, and Williams said their contributions to Jay-Z's and Busta Rhymes' upcoming albums could be their best tracks yet (see "Neptunes' Pharrell Trumpets Jay-Z, Justin Projects, Addresses Beyonce Rumors").
"He's found new ways to dodge the beat," Williams said of Rhymes. Added Hugo, "It's on some 'Planet Rock' 2003 stuff. Not the beat, but the sound. Crazy sick."
The duo kept mum about other future projects, including the next Britney Spears record. "It's in the works," Hugo said as Williams motioned zipping his lips shut. "We'd love to [work on it], so we'll see what happens."
One artist the Neptunes have not produced but would like to is Eminem. Williams said they've talked but have been too busy to set something up.
"He's incredibly talented," Williams added. "The syncopation he uses when he rhymes ... damn. And he rhymes for himself. He understands himself and that's what keeps him so on point."