My Favorite’s of All Time #17: N.E.R.D.’s ‘Fly or Die’

I have listened to this project so many times in the past couple of weeks. I signed up for Vinyl Me Please recently, off the strength of them releasing a VMP edition of Fly or Die in a peppermint cloud pattern. And finally received the project a couple of weeks ago. It was almost too beautiful to touch.

Why the tears? have no fear
We are here for you
But I know how you feel
I know how you feel when no one cares
If you feel just like I feel
Everythings plastic, nothings real
Fuck your lover face, not steal
We’re just dancing, no big deal
Hey just let the bullshit pass
Or we’ll skateboard your ass
Got more bombs, more wheels
We’re just dancing, no big deal

It just happened, so what?
But they’re all laughing, what’s up?

I mentioned before – in the M.F.O.A.T. for “Sooner of Later” – that I started listening to them during a very unsavory part of my life. It took me a minute to actually listen to the entire Fly or Die album, though. I stuck with their “best of” project for a while before branching off to other projects, and after that I stayed with Seeing Sounds (2008) and Nothing (2010), though I would visit Fly or Die to listen to “Jump” and the title track. And everyday since I finally got around to listening to the entire project, I’ve regretted waiting so long to listen to it lol. This album is an angst teen’s wildest dream. It’s filled with conversations about being at war with yourself while also watching wars play out in society (with a smidgen of love sprinkled in there as well) – all set to funky bass instrumentals and heavy punk rock drums.

I definitely have some favorite tracks on this project. “Breakout” is a recent favorite. It reminds me a lot of “Sooner or Later” – it’s a song for when you feel like you’re losing your mind and want to rip your skin off. It’s one of those sounds you can dance and cry to. “Maybe” has been a song that I’ve loved since I was first introduced to N.E.R.D.’s music, and it’s still just as good to this day and will always be one of my favorite songs. I already mentioned “Fly or Die” and “Jump.” “She Wants to Move” is also another great song. “Drill Sergeant” is amazing. LOL I feel like at this point I might as well just say that every song on this project is my favorite song. It really is a special album.

I just think overall N.E.R.D. is such a talented group. And I mean that with my whole heart. It’s always so interesting to me how much they can do with so little. I think that this album is the perfect example of that. In 55 minutes, they give us a lot. Different sounds, different collaborations, different themes. I think it’s even more impressive that they’re able to have such a strong separation between the work that Chad and Pharrell do with the Neptunes compared to the work that they (plus Shay) do with N.E.R.D. It’s not necessarily night and day but you can feel the difference, instead of it being the same sound under two different names.

And it’s kind of a shame that N.E.R.D. takes such a backseat role when people talk about Pharrell’s career. He has, of course, been a mainstay in hip hop and R&B music for really really long time. Him and Chad. I feel like everyday I learn that another song that I’ve been listening to for years was produced by the two of them. And, of course, they deserve all the praise for the amazing things that they’ve done as a duo, but they created something just as special with N.E.R.D. The punk, rock, indie sounds that are normally associated with white guys that wear plaid and leather jeans comes out of a group of men of color in ways that people don’t typically expect, and they’re able to blend those with hip hop and r&b sounds so fluidly. It’s the type of music for weirdos and people who get called freaks. It’s the type of music I needed when I was younger and going through emotional growing pains. N.E.R.D. filled that space of loneliness and out of touchness that I felt, and I just hope that the group continues to be that for future generations of weirdos.

here’s something else you might like:

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