Pharrell might have been humbled by the lackluster sales and critical response his debut solo album, In My Mind, garnered last year. After all, the super-producer had engineered a number of hits for other artists and emerged as a charismatic presence on several others. Yet, among critics, Pharrell took knocks for the LP — not because of his new status as a flashy frontman, but actually due to the stripped-down beats that have long been his trademark.
But rather than leave the album to collect the critics' dust, Pharrell decided to repackage it entirely. Last fall, he rang his friend ?uestlove — drummer for the Roots and one of the hardest-working musicians in the business — to write and perform (with his pals) new music for the CD's 15 tracks, while keeping Pharrell's existing vocals intact. The result is the tentatively titled Out of My Mind, credited to "Pharrell and the Yessirs."
"Pharrell called me at 4 a.m. like three times in a row from Japan," ?uestlove told MTV News via e-mail. "I picked up and in his 'sell a drowning man water' mode, he sold me on the album: 'I need to make this world see my vision with this record. Please help me translate it, man!' He had me dressing and in the studio starting this record five hours later."
Out of My Mind was recorded very quickly, over a 15-day period in October. ?uestlove worked with members of the Roots, frequent collaborator James Poyser and other members of his various production incarnations — e.g., the Soulquarians, Illadelphonics and the Randy Watson Experience — and dubbed the collaborative "the Yessirs."
"We always customize a name for each project so it can have its own identity," he said, adding that he and Poyser worked "constant 18-hour days [with] no showers, no eating, nada."
Pharrell's reaction when he heard the finished reworking was enthusiastic,
?uestlove said. "He was blown away. He said, 'I didn't think you'd pull it off.' I always felt that under the coldness of the original album lied a treasure that needed to be somewhat polished. He was open-minded to our ideas, and I thank him for the challenge."
Last week, ?uestlove quietly posted one of the songs — the reworked "How Does It Feel?" — on his MySpace page in an effort to drum up support for the yet-unreleased reissue. The frenetic, old-school funk energy of the reworked track — colored by a full rhythm section, guitars, strings and horns — is an imaginative take on Pharrell's synthesized, minimalist original.
But while ?uestlove posted the track just last week, the project currently sits in limbo. Interscope Records, Pharrell's label, had no confirmation on the album's release.
Whether or not the project does come out, ?uestlove says he's looking forward to resurrecting the band for a possible new Pharrell album in the near future. "I believe he really wants to keep the same unit and do all new songs — and I welcome any challengers."