N.E.R.D. comes to campus

Last Friday, the band N.E.R.D. performed on the CFA lawn to an estimated crowd of 2500, most of whom were college students from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh. For anyone unfamiliar with the band, N.E.R.D. originally started as a creative outlet for The Neptunes. Here?s where it gets confusing: Neptune is a division of Star Trak Entertainment, and The Neptunes are producers. Two of N.E.R.D.?s members began as producers at Star Trak: Pharrell Williams (who goes by his first name) and Chad Hugo. A lot of the work they did, however, was producing for different record companies, putting out tracks by such artists as Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Jay-Z, Ludacris, Nas, and Busta Rhymes. Recently, though, Neptune signed Clipse, who came out with ?Grinding? and ?When the Last Time...,? and Kelis, who recently came out with the popular song ?Milkshake.?

As an artist, Pharrell went big in the last year, putting out ?Beautiful? with Snoop Dogg and a few songs with Jay-Z. Since then he, Chad Hugo, and a third member, a rapper who goes by the name of Shay, have put out two records. The first one, In Search Of... was more experimental, and was not well received by critics and the hip-hop community at large. Their new album, however, Fly or Die, is very well put together and has a couple popular songs to its credit, such as ?She Wants to Move.? Meanwhile, N.E.R.D.?s newest song, ?Lapdance,? continues to gain popularity. But what does N.E.R.D. stand for? On N.E.R.D.?s website, Pharrell explains the name. ?N.E.R.D. stands for No One Ever Really Dies.... N.E.R.D. is just a basic belief. People?s energies are made of their souls. When you die, that energy may disperse but it isn?t destroyed. Energy can not be destroyed.? Now, on to the show.

The opening band, Spymob, began playing at about 8, just as the sun went down. The sunset and clear skies, combined with the warm, un-Pittsburgh-like weather created a fresh, relaxed atmosphere that was perfect for Spymob?s style of upbeat but laid-back music. Most of their songs were characterized by smooth beats and serene chords. Their music was melodic enough to almost border on soundscape. Overall, it was well done, and Spymob put on a good show, especially for an opening act.

Spymob stopped playing at 9, which was apparently too soon; N.E.R.D. was still on the road driving to Pittsburgh from New York City. Fortunately, there was only a thirty-minute interval before they arrived. Some tracks were played in the meantime, and when N.E.R.D. finally did take the stage, the crowd?s enthusiasm did not seem lessened by the wait. There were some girls in the crowd perched on guys? shoulders cheering.

N.E.R.D. started off strong from there, opening with the song ?Perseverance,? the hidden track on Fly or Die. The group?s energy level, however, seemed sub-par, and that noticeably affected the crowd. After the first two songs, the interest level seemed to slowly decline. Their stock lines, such as vocalist Shay?s, ?My brother told me that the one thing about Pittsburgh is that people here like to have a good time,? didn?t seem to do much to stir up the audience. Also, frontman Pharrell?s attempts to play on Carnegie Mellon?s school spirit didn?t have much of an impact on those present, most of whom were either hesitantly enthusiastic CMU students or students from Pitt.

The crowd?s enthusiasm, however, seemed to take a definite turn for the better when, right before ?She Wants to Move,? Pharrell and other members of the band began to pick girls out of the audience to come on stage and dance with them. The energy level skyrocketed as girls jumped up and down and called out to be picked. The men in the audience cheered the band, and the ladies. A couple well-placed jokes from Pharrell asking the girls? boyfriends not to get mad continued to set the mood.

From there, N.E.R.D. played a strong set to the finish. For the finale, N.E.R.D. pulled several guys who had been moshing in the crowd on stage for the song ?Lapdance.?

Overall, N.E.R.D.?s sixty-minute set was solid, but it lacked a certain originality and spontaneity. The music, however, was played flawlessly, and Pharrell?s vocals were dead on: something he showcased most by taking a solo with the song ?Frontin.??

The Tartan was able to talk with Pharrell for a few minutes after the show.

Q: ?What do you want to do with your music??
A: ?Touch different people.?

Q: ?What did you do in your career to get to this point??
A: ?It started with education, and, you know, I just love music. I couldn?t really help myself, I tried to and just had to keep going.?

Q: ?Where do you want to go from here??
A: ?Try to change the world; or at least try to help it anyway. And play some cool music.?