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"My family would move around a lot, so instead of just hearing Kool & the Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Spinners, I was hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd and AC/DC. When the new wave shit came around, I was listening to things like Tears for Fears."
——N.E.R.D.'s Williams
N.E.R.D. IS THE WORD
Group's Debut Remains on the Chart Six Months After its March Release
Are they a top-flight hip-hop/R&B production team or a psychedelic pop/classic rock/new wave group?

Actually, Virginia-based duo Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo are both.

As the Neptunes, the pair’s Star Trak Entertainment has produced or remixed hit songs for the likes of Jay-Z, Mystikal, Backstreet Boys, Janet, Mary J. Blige, Babyface, Usher and Clipse. Along with longtime pal Shay, they form the Virgin Records America group N.E.R.D. (for "No One Ever Really Dies"), the performing band to the ’Tunes’ production entity, whose debut album, In Search of..., remains on the chart six months after its March release, selling, to date, almost 350k OTC.

Williams describes the dichotomy: "The Neptunes are who we are, and N.E.R.D. is what we do. And this album is like a life soundtrack, a diary of shit we’ve been through over the last year or two. We’re just trying to express ourselves as colorful as possible, as musical as possible. That’s what we’ve always done."

And while the Neptunes’ success has come mostly in hip-hop and R&B, N.E.R.D. has had a great deal of success at Post Modern radio formats with the single/video, "Rock Star."

"We’re influenced by so much, from Stevie Wonder to Steely Dan, Donny Hathaway to America," explains Williams. "And Queen is the shit. I love classic rock. My family would move around a lot, so instead of just hearing Kool & the Gang, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Spinners, I was hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd and AC/DC. When the new wave shit came around, I was listening to things like Tears for Fears."

VP Marketing Eric Ferris "Wheel" has been working on the project from the start, since the fall of 2000, when the band first delivered the album, which was later re-recorded using live instruments. The initial single, an original version of "Lap Dance," went to crossover mix shows in December 2000 before hitting PoMo radio in mid-2001, with outlets like WFNX Boston and MTV2, who played the video, as early supporters.

"It took a year-and-a-half to set this up," says Ferris, who credits a guerilla campaign which included lifestyle marketing companies like Black Market and the Osiris clothing line, as well as "the best press campaign ever," with playing an important role. "The group wanted to bring together their classic-rock influences with modern-day production values and break through at Alternative radio."

N.E.R.D. went out on their first-ever headlining tour in May, followed by the current Sprite-promoted rap-rock concert series with Hoobastank, 311 and Jay-Z. They perform on the MTV Presents the AT&T Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert series, premiering this week.

Almost two years after N.E.R.D. first handed in the album, the moves are finally paying off, according to Ferris. "If you’re going to break innovative artists," he says, "you have to introduce them in the streets first. The major media outlets don’t have time to develop new acts. If it’s real and means something, it will work. We’ve been consistent in our voice, and the band has been diligent in breaking through."

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