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Album Review

Between the release dates of their third and fourth albums, N.E.R.D. gained and lost a female member and scrapped a large volume of in-progress work. They came up with another album’s worth of material, only to have Interscope ask for a larger portion of upbeat songs. The lead single “Hot-N-Fun,” as well as a few others, could be classified as modern frat rock — shamelessly mindless, though they’re sonically closer to rubbery pop-funk. The album’s highlights tend not to be full songs but ideas within them — the drunken horns and drums in “God Bless Us All,” the twinkling keyboard touches in “Perfect Defect,” the taut programming in the Daft Punk-produced “Hypnotize U,” the gorgeously saccharine and Free Design-like back half of “I've Seen the Light/Inside of Clouds.” One exception is the thoroughly transfixing “Life as a Fish,” a lyrically murky ecological rumination cast in pocket-symphony chamber soul. Once again, N.E.R.D. are at their best when they abandon all regard for the Hot 100.

Biography

Formed: Virginia

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The acronym N.E.R.D. stands for "No One Ever Really Dies," but childhood friends Chad Hugo, Pharrell Williams, and Shay most certainly used the group to proudly emphasize the nerdier aspects of their musical personalities. Before this side project took shape, Hugo and Williams — as the Neptunes — had established themselves as giants in the field of pop production, whether they were working with hardcore rappers, smooth crooners, or teen pop groups. Although...
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Nothing, N.E.R.D
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