From the very beginning of Jay-Z's latest, "Blue Magic," and its opening words, "It's alive. It's alive," it's clear that this is an official announcement — a decree, if you will — that hip-hop is alive and well.
"Blue Magic" brings out a morally ambiguous side of Jay, a side some thought had gone forever when he took the corporate throne. But this is exactly how a returning legend should sound.
It was the Pharrell Williams-produced "Drop It Like It's Hot" that gave Snoop a new breath of life in 2004 and became his first single to reach #1 in the charts. And when JT decided to make the tricky move from boy-band member to full-fledged solo artist, it was Pharrell who produced and featured on his solo debut, "Like I Love You," to great success. So, when Jay-Z decided that retirement wasn't really for him, the rapper who could literally take his pick of any producer in the world went straight to Pharrell for his first official single since the album Kingdom Come.
Earlier this week, I headed downtown to meet with that man, the Captain of Star Trak. It was a beautiful day in the city, so instead of shooting indoors in some small room, we both decided at the last minute to take it outside onto the street for a little New York ambience. As we were walking around the block, looking for a good place to shoot, we bump into one of Pharrell's old friends, the one and only Chris Rock.
Cool fact: Chris is a huge Van Halen fan and a die-hard rocker. He was still hyped from the night before, when he traveled to Philadelphia to see Van Halen hit the stage, and within minutes he was putting Pharrell and me onto it. I was sold.
Chris left, and about 15 minutes later, we rolled the cameras and caught up with Pharrell about the eagerly anticipated new NERD album, his current projects and how he's learned to carefully balance his life between being a producer and a solo artist.