The 'nerdy' Neptunes: Creating their own planet
(CNN) -- Life on planet Neptune is pretty good these days. At least, that's what the Neptunes hip-hop producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo will tell you.
The duo won the prize for Best Producer at the MOBO awards in London in October, beating out Murder Inc. main man Irv Gotti, Timbaland, Dr. Dre and Missy Elliot.
Besides their track record in helping propel the careers of artists like Jay-Z, No Doubt, Mary J. Blige, Sade, Limp Bizkit and Backstreet Boys, the Neptunes are often credited for making Britney Spears sexier with her sizzling hit, "I'm A Slave 4 U," and more recently, the hip-hop-tinged single "Boys."
Hugo and Williams are also the maestros behind Justin Timberlake's solo debut, "Like I Love You," which is currently getting strong radio play in the United States as well as climbing the singles charts.
They've also collaborated with Destiny's Child singer Beyonce Knowles, producing her debut single, "Work It Out," and other tracks on her upcoming solo album.
"The Beyonce project is really cool," Williams recently told The Music Room. "In the group she was 'Beyonce the singer.' With her solo project we're trying to show the world who she is as a person. The two songs (we've worked on so far) are amazing and they're very different from her (usual) audience, but they're catchy."
When the Neptunes aren't working on music for others, they're working on music for themselves with their group, N.E.R.D. which stands for No One Ever Really Dies.
The group, made up of Hugo, Williams and their friend Shay, made its debut this year with the album "In Search Of..." which brings a unique blend of hip-hop, rap, classic rock and R&B to today's pop-dominated music scene. The album won N.E.R.D. the Shortlist Prize for Artistic Achievement in Music in October.
In between partying and performing on the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour in Atlanta, Georgia in August, Shay and Williams sat down with TMR for a chat. Here's what the men had to say:
TMR: Let's start with you giving us a brief history of N.E.R.D.
Williams: We're from a planet that someone referred to as Earth, but we refer to as K-Pax. And we came here in a brief surge of light. And we're now in the human form here to...
TMR: Now can you tell us the real history? How did you meet?
Shay: We're from Virginia. Pharrell and me went to high school together. Chad went to Kempsville. We went to Princess Anne.
TMR: Pharrell, as the Neptunes, you've watched so many artists you've worked with do so well. How does that feel?
Williams: It's good to just be a part of the equation of what's going on, because you don't have to be a part of the equation. At any given point and time the carpet can be yanked from under your feet and it can all be taken away. Ultimately this is a guys' movie and the only thing you can do is play your part. I just try to do that to the best of my abilities, so does Chad, and so does Shay.
TMR: Did you ever think about working with country artists?
Williams: Yeah. I wanted to work with Faith Hill, but her schedule was kind of crazy with her working on a film and having children. I would have needed a whole lot more of her time and it just kind of didn't work. Hopefully in the future, when there's enough time, it will happen. I definitely want to work with Bonnie Raitt. I'm just interested in changing things.
TMR: Is there someone you'd like to work with, besides the whole country thing?
Shay: Papa Smurf.
Williams: No, definitely Bonnie Raitt. It would be a pleasure to work with Stevie (Wonder) and Michael (Jackson) too. It would be great to work with Michael. And I want to bring back one of the older classic rock dudes. I don't know which one yet. I think it's possible.
TMR: When did you get to the point when you decided to start a group of your own?
Williams: We've always been a collective entity. We got discovered as a group. I was on drums, Chad was on keys, Shay was dancing and one of our boys. Mike was singing. It sort of evolved into what it is now but it didn't get accepted until maybe two years ago. Because I was stupid: I would go to meetings and stand on people's desks like I had an idea. I was convinced that we had good music and back then it was just ahead of its time, because a lot of the stuff we do now is what we were doing then. The stuff that we're doing now doesn't always work for now; it's a little bit ahead of its time. But that's OK. It's like riding a 10-speed or a mountain bike, and your gear sort of switches before you know it and you're pedaling extra fast and it doesn't matter because the chain will catch and it will kick in and that work pays off. So it's okay if you're a little faster than your intended speed, because it catches up to you.
TMR: What do you think about the music industry and the way it changes nowadays?
Shay: Music is music. It doesn't matter whether it's country, pop, R&B or hip-hop. It's all good music and we just appreciate it for what it's worth.
TMR: Can you tell me about your videos for this last album?
Shay: "Lapdance" was the first video, which was fun to do. The song itself was about politicians acting like strippers, doing anything for money. The second video was "Rock Star" and that was just like taking it back to high school. We live in our high-school memories.
Williams: That's how our public is. We do it in smaller venues, like 2,000, 2,500 people, and it's all mixed people. It's like people who skate, people who break, people who freestyle...
Shay: The unemployed...
Williams: And employed! Even a nine-to-five was in there. I think our music just touches different people in different ways.
TMR: What do you get out of performing live?
Shay: The love from the fans.
Williams: Pretty much just giving back.
CNN's Dan van der Kooy and Shanon Cook contributed to this report.