I had a moment recently.
Don't be alarmed, I haven't gone lockdown crazy just yet (although there has been an occasional day or two where the walls felt like they were closing in and I was all but ready to flee the country to some land far, far away). This was something different. I lit a cigar - fresh out of the humidor - poured a little wine and headed towards the backyard to catch the long-awaited sunset and a hopeful summer breeze - as mosquitoes and other insect (serving no purpose to the world) treated my legs like their last supper.
In my hand - my cellphone, on my screen - YouTube. I was feeling nostalgic and decided to take a trip down memory lane. Brainstorming, if you may. All the way to the early 2000s - somewhere around 2000-2003 to be exact. For those who don't know, I am usually STRICTLY 80s and 90s and will vouch for those decades any day of the week - doesn't matter the genre (well, everything except Country. It simply wasn't a preference of mine). My 'Life Soundtrack,' so to speak, revolves around Soft Rock, 80s New Wave/Pop/Rock/R&B, 90s Alternative Rock/Pop/R&B/Hip Hop. Personally, I don't know where I'd be without 90s Hip-Hop (preferably the 'Golden Era' of the mid 90s. Oh, how I miss it!). Nonetheless, I scrolled through a few videos from the early 2000s and that's when it dawned on me:
This is one of the most underappreciated eras in music history!
I nodded my head to a few songs featuring Lil' Jon, because if you didn't know, Crunk Music was all the rage at one point. I wasn't too fond of the genre at the time of its existence, but lord knows I'd do just about anything to hear a 'YEEEEAAAAAAA!' or 'OKAAAAYYY!' from Lil' Jon right now. Southern music was in such high demand, I even considered moving to Atlanta (or somewhere along the Southeast) to be apart of it. It was THAT real. Their artists did a magnificent job with capturing my imagination on southern life and I was sold that this NYC boy could make the transition.
Meanwhile, also fighting for my listening ear on this hot summer evening were Virginia's own, the Neptunes.
Sidenote: If you can find a bigger Neptunes' fan than me, point him/her out immediately.
WHERE TF ARE THE NEPTUNES?! HAS ANYBODY SEEN THEM?!
Pharrell Williams/Chad Hugo & the rest of the crew have left me high & dry. I understand they had a masterful decade plus run (and I contributed greatly to the bank accounts of most of the artists they worked with), but what gives on their current disappearing act? I am truly bothered by this.
I took a few pulls from my cigar while Babyface 'There She Goes' blared in my ear (even the GREAT Babyface reached out to the Neptunes - Babyface doesn't have to reach out to ANYONE. That certainly speaks volumes). Next up: 'Please Don't Mind' by a group then known as Philly's Most Wanted (another BIG tune and great album that I can still play in 2020). Before you know it, I was on a roll:
Ray J Ft. Lil' Kim - 'Wait a Minute'
T.I. Ft. Beenie Man - 'I'm Serious'
Beenie Man Ft. Janet Jackson - 'Feel It Boy'
Usher - 'U Don't Have to Call'
Clipse - 'Grindin'
Jay-Z - 'Excuse Me Miss'
NSYNC Ft. Nelly - 'Girlfriend' (Remix)
LL Cool J - 'Luv U Better'
Snoop Dogg - 'Beautiful'
Such epic songs, ALL produced by the Neptunes.
I looked around the backyard to make certain I wasn't making a fool out of myself while attempting a poor Star Trek Vulcan hand gesture - something Pharrell and others did so effortlessly to show their allegiance to Star Trak (their former record label). Admittedly, almost 20 years later and I STILL can't make my fingers configure that way smh...
I understand music is ever-changing and I am fully aware of the short shelf-life of most artists. But we're talking about the Neptunes here. One of the best production duos in the history of music. If you don't believe me, ask Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Mystikal, Noreaga (N.O.R.E.), Gwen Stefani and a gang of others who shared chart topping success courtesy of Virginia's Finest (neck and neck with Timbaland and Teddy Riley, some would argue). Why couldn't the Neptunes have a lifespan as long as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis? If Pharrell and Chad gracefully bowed out of their illustrious music careers to pursue other life-long goals, kudos to them. But if I can be selfish for a moment - couldn't they add a couple of hits per year for the sake of humanity? (or, perhaps just me). I wouldn't care if they banged on a table for 3 mins long, rest assure the song would be a bonafide hit!
Try to forget the fashion of the early 2000s (if you can); the oversized tees, throwback jerseys, and jeans baggy enough to fit a few toddlers into a single pant leg. As far as music goes, that time period has to be included in the conversation of greatest musical eras. No debate. Do a quick Google search if your memory gets the best of you and see for yourself. Nothing but classics generating from that timeline.
The world is a much different place now. 2020 has been nothing short of dreadful for many and with the exception of a few artists, the music has been just about as pitiful as the day is long. Typically, everyday is 'turn-back-the-clock' day for yours truly. Whether it's due to watching an old movie or reflecting on life, I can promise you it stems from a time when music captivated my soul. It's what I call my 'happy place' - a method used to escape the madness of today. Just leave me there with my music of old. I promise you I'll be okay.
Thank you, Pharrell & Chad, for all that you've done.