August 17, 2006

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Pharrell Williams, In My Mind
Star Trak/Interscope Records, 2006

Often masterful synthesis of hip-hop and ’80s R&B. As half of the hit-spewing Neptunes, Skateboard P has a résumé that is all bullets in bold, from helping Justin Timberlake get a life to supplying Snoop with a new one, and his first solo record is a peek at his best hook-stash from the back of the cellar. The album’s first half or so is Grammy-grubbing jet-set fodder steeped in LA-homes chill-rap, more so during the first couple of songs, led off by a “duet” with Gwen Stefani (“Can I Have It Like That”), who contributes nothing more than a cheerleader’s Ebonic ringtone that’s not as bee-stung as her usual unusualness. It’s all uphill from there, though, setting up a scenario where this may go down as one of the last albums of its type to get away with a paucity of layering simply because the atmospherics were chosen so carefully, case in point being “Keep It Playa” (with Slim Thug), which would be written off as a loose collection of low-tech dub riddims if it didn’t take its deadsville subject matter to new heights. A-

— Eric Saeger


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