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Meeting Pharrell Williams, the coolest N.E.R.D and 'man of the moment'

By Monita Rajpal, CNN
December 20, 2013 -- Updated 1750 GMT (0150 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Talk Asia" host Monita Rajpal speaks with musician Pharrell Williams about his diverse career
  • Also a producer and entrepreneur, he is involved in multiple business ventures
  • Rajpal: "He has become the man everyone wants to work with"

Editor's note: Watch this week's episode of Talk Asia with Monita Rajpal featuring Pharrell Williams. It airs for the first time on Friday, December 20, 10.30am GMT/6:30 pm HKT. Follow Monita Rajpal on Twitter.

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Cerebral. That's how I would describe the producer, songwriter, musician Pharrell Williams if I could only use one word.

Yes, he's incredibly talented -- as co-founder of the production powerhouse The Neptunes, he and his partner Chad Hugo have netted hit after hit. They have worked with everyone from Britney Spears to Madonna. Justin Timberlake to Jay-Z.

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Most recently, Robin Thicke probably wasn't a name you would have been familiar with until you heard this year's biggest hit "Blurred Lines" featuring Pharrell. Yup, that was The Neptunes' doing.

And don't forget about Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" the hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts and which Billboard described as "the Summer Song of 2013". It's just another part of the Pharrell phenomenon.

If you want to know more about Pharrell, you only have to look as far as the manifesto he wrote on his website. He says, "I serve and represent the OTHERS because I am one myself". The "others" being anyone who has ever felt outside of the "norm", anyone who has ever felt they couldn't be categorized, anyone who has ever felt different.

See who else has been on Talk Asia

It's often safer to be inside the proverbial box. But it takes guts to not only say that the box is too small, but to go out and create a whole other space to be free and thrive. And that's what Mr. Williams has done.

For him, the internet is that space. It's a place where democracy rules but individuality reigns. Ironic since here is a guy who has succeeded where very few can. He has been accepted by the establishment in music, fashion, art and architecture. He has become the man everyone wants to work with.

It's his humility and gratitude that make people seek him out.
Monita Rajpal, host Talk Asia

In the research process and through our conversation I saw Williams as more than "the man of the moment" but a man with cross pop cultural influence.

He showed me a roadmap to a non-predictable professional life, one in which his career is custom-designed and climbs no particular ladder. He speaks of a "collective conscience" where a "shift in humanity" means there are no ladders. Instead, it's about seeking alternate horizons by designing your own life and your own path.

Through his "I Am Other" initiative, (which is now the umbrella framework under which all his projects operate) Pharrell capitalizes on this shift by turning the consumer generation he influences into fellow entrepreneurs.

Talk Asia host Monita Rajpal and guest, Pharrell Williams on set.
Talk Asia host Monita Rajpal and guest, Pharrell Williams on set.

He has created a forum where people can share and discuss ideas, thereby sealing his own position as a role model. He expresses his own ideas through music, movies, social media, and of course the internet. Williams calls it "a customization era" because "people want what they want right now."

Williams credits his diverse career to a lifelong curiosity that his mother instilled in him. She taught him to be open to all that is around him. And he is.

From conversations with the renowned neuroscientist Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and their discussions on the psychology of music to collaborations with the artist Takashi Murakami on a sculpture, Pharrell is a man who revels in cross-platform communication because for him, life is about maximizing existence in every way.

Music has been the skeleton key that's opened every door of every opportunity that I've had.
Pharrell Williams

For Williams though, the most important message he could share to his fans is his perspective on humanity --it is one in which we all have something to offer and it is our duty to our self-respect to live life on our terms. The goal then would be to find a way to serve humanity through our given talents.

Williams shared with me the one thing that stuck with him that Ramachandran told him. He said "the apes and the monkeys reach for fruit, but man reaches for stars and that's the difference."

Through that wide-eyed wonder for all that this life has to offer, opportunities have made their way to him. He tells me "music has been the skeleton key that's opened every door of every opportunity that (I've) had."

Well that may be, but it's his humility and gratitude that make people seek him out. As he says, he takes his "ego's hat off and (leaves) it at the door". He is comfortable in his own skin and it shows. Maybe that's why his song "Happy" has already had over seven million views on YouTube. We all want some of that to rub off on us. I know I do.

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