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 caving 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), my life soundtrack 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- considered the 'Golden Era' to most). 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 this time in music history. Admittedly, I wasn't too fond of that style of southern rap, but lord knows I'd do just about anything to hear a 'YEEEEAAAAAAA!' or 'OKAAAAYYY!' from Lil' Jon right about now. Southern music was in such high demand, I even considered moving to Atlanta (or somewhere along the Southeast) just to be apart of it. Yes! Seriously. Their artists sold me on the ambience of southern life, and this NYC boy thought he'd make the transition pretty easily.
Meanwhile, also fighting for my listening ear on this hot summer evening as well as during this time period 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).
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 two of Virginia's Finest. Why couldn't the Neptunes have a lifespan as long as the great duo of 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 you can allow me to be selfish for a moment - couldn't they add a couple of hits per year for the SAKE OF HUMANITY? I wouldn't care if they banged on a table for 3 mins long, I am 100% certain the song would be a bonafide hit.
Try to forget the unforgiving fashion of the early 2000s if you can. Gone are the oversized tees, throwback jerseys and jeans baggy enough to fit a couple of toddlers inside of a pant leg. But sadly, so are the tunes. As far as music was concerned, that era has to be included in the conversation of greatest musical eras. No debate. "Do your Googles" (as the kids say) 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 about as pitiful as the day is long. This is why I've declared every day of my existence as 'turn-back-the-clock' day. It includes movies, television and everything else from yesteryear. A time when music captivated my soul, sending me to my 'happy place.' I miss that feeling... I wanna go back.
I don't need to evolve with the times, neither do you. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Thank you, Pharrell & Chad, for all that you've done.