HOLLYWOOD — As the sun went down Monday night, some of hip-hop’s biggest stars lit up an uncharacteristically clear Los Angeles sky — none shining brighter than producer/performer Pharrell Williams, who previewed his long-awaited solo album, In My Mind, at a MySpace-sponsored show billed Pharrell & Friends. With the LP’s due date just a week away, Skateboard P called upon an all-star roster of collaborators — and approximately 400 MySpace friends and fans — to help kick-start the release of his debut solo album.
After DJ Juske warmed up the crowd with a mix of Pharrell, Neptunes and N.E.R.D. cuts, the man of the hour took the stage. Wearing aviator shades, a Billionaire Boys Club retro polo and his trademark Ice Cream kicks, Pharrell led a “Star Trak, Star Trak” chant as the audience waved Vulcan hand signs in the air. He jumped into “Can I Have It Like That?” and the amped-up crowd gave it to him, happily filling in Gwen Stefani’s lines. The live band behind him switched things up, breaking into the Dr. Dre/ Snoop Dogg classic “Deep Cover” midsong while Pharrell’s flow continued.
Next up was “Baby,” a nasty, bassy dance cut reminiscent of pre-”Purple Rain” Prince — in funkiness and in raunchiness. Likely to be the follow-up single to “Number 1,” the track had Pharrell bringing the sexy, demonstrating what he calls “eye-bleeping” to all the swooning ladies planted in the front row — who focused solely on Pharrell as Nelly was not on hand to perform his verse on the song.
After breezing through “Frontin’ ” sans Jay-Z, Pharrell called up Lupe Fiasco, the first of his friends to share the night’s stage. Lupe performed “Kick Push,” then the two skateboarders busted “I Gotcha” — a Neptunes-produced, backpacker throwback from Lupe’s forthcoming Food & Liquor that sent all heads nodding.
Pharrell called upon hometown crew the Clipse for a little help, and Malice and Pusha T came out swinging with “Grindin’,” “Hot Damn” and “What Happened to That Boy.” Pharrell joined the Virginia Beach natives for “Mr. Me Too,” the first of three tracks the Clipse are releasing before dropping their next LP, Hell Hath No Fury, later this year (see “Clipse Plan ‘Street Hip-Hop At Its Finest’ After All-Star Tour” ). Pharrell called the Clipse’s upcoming album “a Van Gogh, a da Vinci, a Michelangelo” as his homies walked offstage to a thundering ovation.
Slim Thug was Pharrell’s next surprise guest. Pharrell kicked “Keep It Playa,” another In My Mind track, which features a Slim verse. The H-town boss followed up by delivering his own “I Ain’t Heard of That.”
First Virginia stepped up, followed by Houston, and then it was Atlanta’s turn to come out. The South was well represented, and the show kept rolling, when Ludacris joined Pharrell onstage. The audience went wild, and went word-for-word with Luda on “Southern Hospitality” until he changed up his lyrics to shout out the ladies who send him friend requests on MySpace.
Ludacris playfully reminded the crowd that his Release Therapy is due in September (see “Strip-Club Anthems, Cautionary Tales — Luda’s Upcoming LP Has It All” ). And to give the fans a little sample, he and Pharrell offered “Money Maker,” which sounds like it would be right at home pumping out of radios and strip clubs.
While Luda’s reception was big, the night’s loudest cheers were saved for Pharrell’s final guest. The crowd already had a feeling who P might bring out next, and he all but gave it away as he sang in his falsetto, “Beautiful, I just want you to know, you’re my favorite girl.” When Snoop Dogg finally emerged, the audience went bananas. Snoop floated over his verses with ease, and after soliciting friend requests from girls in the front, he joined Pharrell for the silky “That Girl,” another In My Mind collabo. After some onstage deliberation, Pharrell and Snoop gave in to crowd demands and performed “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” with the audience rhyming along.
Pharrell then called for “the king,” but ended up apologizing to the audience as T.I. had to leave the party unexpectedly. The Snoop set closed with a “G-Mix” of “Number 1,” with a Snoop freestyle replacing the Kanye verse.
Pharrell closed the show solo with “Show You How to Hustle,” a bonus track on the album, featuring Lauren.
It was a strong night for Pharrell and for hip-hop — and a lucky night for a few hundred MySpace members. Surely some fortunate concertgoer in your extended network will be blogging all about it.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.