Hip hop bands of rappers and ad libbers have been at their most popular throughout the 2000s so far, one important group that has made their mark in pop culture by collaborating with a pop icon and being a music brainchild of one of the hip hop industry’s most unsung producer. NERD is a rapper trio and funk-rock band that is made up of producers and musicians, Shay Hayley, Chad Hugo, and Pharrell Williams. The group has nine albums and their style has varied and changed throughout their career. The last album the group made is their most popular, but seems to be the last album the group may make.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the music genres that were most popular were Pop Punk and different sub-genres of rock. The Hip hop industry was going through a revival during this time as well, with the birth of southern style hip-hop, trending California style, and the overall new age rappers of the time. The gangsta rappers were at their peak and sampling was a popular adage in the music being made, but for some bands making their own music to rap over was more intellectually challenging.

In the group’s beginning the first two members, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, were a production group called the “Neptunes” and they made music for the most popular artists at the time. As they went on another member, Shay Hayley, began working with the “Neptunes” and formed NERD to experiment with different sounds and ideas. 

The music style of the group is very experimental and reminiscent of funk music and mixed with modern rap styles. The rap style is modern, adhering to the trending aggression and sexualization of women. The bass and funky riffs that the songs entail make them similar to spoken word poetry over jazz. The artistic expression of the group is representative of the music styles of the “Neptunes” work with other artists like Mariah Carey and Nelly.

However, as time went on the band’s sound was becoming repetitive and the group went their separate ways for a while, occasionally doing songs on soundtracks and working on producing music with Williams. The band seemed to be on a never ending break, until 2017 when Lemon by NERD, featuring Rihanna, came out and took over the music scene.

The band’s album No one Ever Really Dies or N.E.R.D, has modern rap and sounds like the popular music of the 2010s era. However, the album, despite its preppy and energetic nature, also speaks to important social and political issues that were occurring at the time. The album touches on many topics and analyzes the world around us. The album also makes contributions to pop culture and social media, adding to the existing conversations being had by younger citizens of society.

Two of the more forward songs, Secret Life of Tigers and Don’t Do It! Talk about the most troubling topics that were occurring in 2017, police brutality and immigration. Secret Life of Tigers addresses the problem of ICE being uncontrollable, the regulations surrounding the way immigrants are treated, and hypocritical nature of the United States during the crisis. This bold address is confident and reflects the era that society was living through. Similarly, in Don’t Do It!, the song tells the story of an incident of police brutality where a man who is impaired is trying to pick up his children from school when he is profiled by police as a criminal they are looking for. As this familiar story goes on in the song, it reaches a conclusion that most who have been touched by police brutality are stuck with.

The songs and artists on this album tell a story of America and how African Americans are viewed in it. This album’s most notable song was solely Lemon, but many of the other songs on the album must be talked about, as well as the rest of the work done by the members of N.E.R.D. Their productions with many artists have shaped music in the 2000s and the music that is being made even now. At this moment in time No one Ever Really Dies is their most recent work, but the work they make in the future will be worth however long the public might have to wait.

other works by the Author: Janelle Clark