N*E*R*D – In Search Of…
Released August 6th, 2001 on Capitol Records / Virgin/EMI Records
Produced by the Neptunes
Peaked at #28 U.K., #56 U.S.
“Lapdance” (#20 U.K., #85 U.S. R&B)
“Rockstar” (#15 U.K.)
“Provider” (#20 U.K.)
Before they decided to start a funk rock band, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo were the Neptunes, a production duo formed a decade prior in Virginia Beach. They’re probably still better known for that work (and for Pharrell being ageless). From 1996 to 2001 they produced some hot stuff: singles by Mase, ODB (baby I got your money), Jay-Z, Mystikal, and Kelis’ whole Kaleidoscope record. Despite this scorching record of work, when they struck out on their own it was with an eye toward Europe, rather than America. Part of the reason was that Kaleidoscope did better in Europe, so they naturally decided that releasing it in Europe first would produce better sales. Another part is likely that a prophet is always shunned in their home land. To be more precise: Britain has always been much more into their N*E*R*D project than America ever was. For further thoughts on this, see Black Mirror’s Fifteen Million Merits. The riff that announces Wraith Babes, the porn show that causes such problems for Daniel Kaluuya’s life and heart, is “Lapdance”, and it’s only the fact that I was in the partying stage of my university career when the single came out that prevents me from completely conflating the two.
The album came out in two versions. The first, produced in a style more akin to how the Neptunes were making singles in those days, was the “electronic version” and today is the 20th anniversary of it’s release. The second version was released in March of 2002 with live backing provided by Spymob. I’m not even sure if you can find the electronic version on legitimate streaming services these days; the Spotify edition is certainly the 2002 live instrumentation edition. You can probably find it on the torrents, if you want. There is some argumentation over which version is the better one; the critics overall scores tend to favour the electronic version, but only slightly. For my money live instrumentation is preferable but only when appropriate. For In Search Of… either/or is fine. The guitar riffs on “Lapdance” and “Rockstar” are both crunchier in the live version, of course, but your mileage may vary.
In Search Of… was the peak of N*E*R*D, although they’ve put out a few more albums over the past twenty years. The Neptunes continue to produce and Pharrell Williams continues to not age, suspiciously. If you spent the early years of this century drinking in restaurant bars or going out to generic club nights, it’s probably time to grab some ibuprofen – but then after that, maybe revisit the album and reminisce about getting fallen-down drunk and throwing up in a parking lot, or maybe something even more publicly embarrassing.