April 26, 2014

Pharrell says he's 'The New Black' and I ain't mad ... Okaay?

Pharrell Williams (Twitter)

Ok so, it seems super producer-writer-singer and 'Happy' man Pharrell Williams has angered some folk (again).  This time controversy centers around comments about race during a recent interview with Oprah on OWN.

While (again) addressing the brouhaha over 'not' including an African American on his GIRL album cover (he did by the way), Pharrell defined himself as The New Black; quoting here, the portion of his statement that went viral:  

 "The New Black doesn't blame other races for our issues.  The New Black dreams and realizes that it's not pigmentation: it's a mentality and it's either going to work for you or it's going to work against you.  And you've got to pick the side you're going to be on."

And for those interested in the complete comment: 

"The new black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The new black dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation, it’s a mentality. It’s either going to work for you or it’s going to work against you and you’ve got to pick which side you’re; gonna be on;  you choose to be on.  
The name of my album is not called race, it’s called G I R L.  It’s for the female species. That’s number one.  Number two, my mama is black.  My mom is a huge part of my business. My wife is black.
There are certain people who allow the delusion in the mirror, in their own mirrors, to become issues. You should not find confidence outside of your mirror. Why are you sharing your delusion? Whatever that space is between you and your mirror, what does that have to do with me? This is my work. 
I recognize that there are issues. We get judged on our skin. I just stated that there hadn’t been an African-American like…so we look at things like that. I don’t allow that to run my life.  I don’t live my life trying to be black. What I do is, I nurture my curiosity and use it.  I’m proud to be what I am. 
So my thing is, the new black is a mentality. You don’t do things because you’re black.  You do things because you’re genuinely interested in something. Is there a lot of black inequality?

The comment spawned almost instantly the Twitter hashtag #whatkindofblackareyou by writer/blogger Feminista Jones.  Jones herself appears to have been offended, telling the The Guardian via email, "While it's admirable to believe that black people can now transcend race, Pharrell's comments are ultimately a "slap in the face" to people who do not fit in with his narrow ideas."

For the record, I am among those people who ain't mad at Pharrell for making such a statements. 

My take on Pharrell's comment, "While acknowledging our issues, he's saying people can ultimately overcome those issues by choosing to change their mindset.

Some of the responses to Twitter #whatkindofblackareyou:

On the surface he may come across as a nouveau rich elitist who has forgotten where he came from, but taking into account other comments made during the interview, Pharrell doesn't appear to be just talking the talk;  in fact, in the very same interview he also said, "... You have to be unafraid to dream and even more brave and galant in blueprinting what you've envisaged."

Pharrell also talked about how an ego driven attitude may have gotten in the way of his initial success saying, "When given the opportunity to do my first solo album, there was more braggadocio than purpose and intention."

It appears to me that Pharrell understands that dreams are not realized at the snap of finger, but require hard work and perseverance.  And more importantly he realizes it takes a circle of people believing in you.  And to that end,  the star music man is not only talking the talk, but walking the walk.

Williams' From One Hand To Another charity foundation is building a $35 million after school center in his hometown Virginia Beach.  Similar centers will be built in out cities with the goal of helping youth between the ages of 7 and 20 in at risk communities throughout the country.

And there's this.  At 4:44  Pharrell is asked what advice he gives to a kid who comes from nothing.

Pharrell has taken part in similar events around the country.  

In my opinion, the multi-talented Pharrell Williams has embraced his evolution from youthful egomania, to that of a humble, soft-spoken adult who not only is aware of,  but articulates with an understated wisdom and the utmost eloquence, who is is;  what he is; and why he is.  And, factoring in his efforts to try to make a difference in the lives of poor kids,  from my vantage point he has not forgotten from where he came.



  1. Well dang, I didn't know about Pharrell's charity work . kinda puts a different spin on things

  2. He's tso articulate