On Friday, N.E.R.D returns with its first album in seven years, NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES, featuring two collaborations with Kendrick Lamar. During a visit to Beats 1 this week, Pharrell unleashed one of their records, “Don’t Don’t Do It!”
The socially-conscious song was inspired by Keith Scott, an African-American man, who was fatally shot last year in Charlotte, North Carolina by a police officer. Police arrived at Scott’s apartment complex to search for an unrelated man with an outstanding warrant. Scott was killed as his wife looked on.
“She’s filming the entire thing on her camera phone. She is saying, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t don’t do it. Don’t do it Keith. Don’t don’t do it,’” Pharrell told Zane Lowe. “She’s telling the authorities that her husband has a TBI, that’s a Traumatic Brain Injury. They’re telling him to put his hands up or whatever and she knows, you can tell in her voice that she see what’s going to happen. She’s saying, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t do it Keith. Don’t don’t do it.’ And of course you know the way that turned out—he was killed.”
The intro to the song (“It makes no difference in this life / Up and up’s just fine…”) was written by Frank Ocean. “He is the arch of no compromise, no concession and very colorful with it,” said Pharrell. “Nothing ever feels like a mistake with him, but of course we all as human beings make mistakes. His ability to make nothing feel like a mistake or nothing feel like everything has purpose. Even his flaws just seem to be artful and well thought out.”
Pharrell also heaped praise on his Compton collaborator. “To me Kendrick is like probably a jazz artist reincarnated,” he said. “The way that he handles the pen is kind of how Miles Davis handled the trumpet. Or how Coltrane fingers just shifted and sifted through his saxophone keys. It’s like his melodies are as prolific and what he has to say has so much harmony and so much color in it.”
In addition to “Don’t Don’t Do It!” Kendrick guests on the M.I.A.-assisted “Kites.” NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES, the follow-up to 2010’s Nothing, also features appearances from Ed Sheeran, André 3000, Gucci Mane, Rihanna, Future, and more.