After being away for seven years, N.E.R.D has finally come back with their brand new, fifth studio album No_One Ever Really Dies. Created because of the social and political turbulence, No_One Ever Really Dies attempts to address racism, islamophobia and several other topics in their explosive songs. With features including the likes of Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran, and with sounds ranging from hip-hop to psych-pop and everything in between, this album is definitely worth a listen.
Pharrell Williams opens this track with “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” This semi-serious note then immediately gives way to an authentic bop. The lyrics include a wide array vaguely of political images, but what I think really makes this song great is Rihanna’s collaboration. If Rihanna’s attitude were literally transformed into a beat and lyrics, this would be that.
Deep Down Body Thurst
Let’s face it, N.E.R.D wouldn’t be N.E.R.D without their political commentary. They consistently reference current political events, yet somehow make their lyrics and beats catchy. The same applies here. This song has a great beat, but the lyrics are heavily political. They mention Trump’s infamous border wall, immigration policy and islamophobia. The lyrics are slightly repetitive, but that gets the message across almost brilliantly.
This song isn’t as political as some others, but it is easily one of my favorite songs on the album. Gucci Mane and Wale are both featured in this upbeat song, and the result is amazing. Not only is it a fun song, but it’s also strangely motivational. Pharrell’s refrain is a reminder that we’re not alone, because we have friends. The end of the song, however, takes a surprising twist into a reggae-like verse by Wale. It’s a weird transition, sure, but if anyone can pull it of, it’s N.E.R.D, and they do.
Enlisting the help of first-time collaborator, Future, this song reflects on the U.S.’ current state. in a studio listening session, Pharrell addressed the visual narrative of the song by saying that “the visual narrative speaks to […] what’s going on in America with the way people are pretending like the confederate flag doesn’t mean what the f**k it really means. With that visual narrative, we pushed it as much as we could. If you listen to the lyrics, the lyrics are about all the abuse that’s happened to the Native Americans, because this is their land for real. We’re all immigrants. So, this ‘1000’ record is pushing for everybody. There’s an uplifting message in it that tells everyone, ‘In the mirror, there’s a hero, one zero zero zero.'”
Don’t Don’t Do It!
Changing up the vibe, this song starts more relaxed. The beginning is more chill than the previous songs, but then it kicks up a little bit again. As Pharrell stated at ComplexCon 2017, the song was inspired by the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in North Carolina. Scott was a 43-year-old African-American man who was fatally shot by Brentley Vinson, an African-American city police officer. This track is politically charged, which is why it’s so fitting that the feature on this song is Kendrick Lamar, who is famous for his political messages. The song itself is catchy and has a great beat, but at the same time, it manages to address a situation without necessarily making light of it. The lyrics are much deeper than what the beat lets on, and that’s what makes this song (and this album) so good.
This song is all about energy and ESP. ESP, standing for Extra-Sensory Perception, which basically means having a heightened awareness about things that go beyond our five senses. This song, like a few others, uses repetition to focus us on what they’re trying to say. And, what they’re trying to say, according to Pharrell in their album listening session, is that “It’s crazy out here and right now; what we’re discovering is the truth only matters when it sounds cool. And when it doesn’t sound cool, people just choose to not fucking believe it. So, that’s how they’re gonna use their minds. We need to use our minds a little bit stronger.” This song has undeniable energy, and I genuinely enjoyed listening to it.
Lightning Fire Magic Player
This song begins a little chiller than some of the others, but once again, it transitions into unmistakable beats and vocals. The background voices compliment the beats and the overall song perfectly. This song is about being “born anew” and finding your true place in society. However, the second half of the song reflects on how once you are “born anew,” maybe the place you find in society isn’t what you expected. As I’ve said before, the lyrics go way deeper than the beat, yet remain paired perfectly, thanks to a blend of background vocals and sounds.
This song features Andre 3000, and you can tell. The vibe is techno and glitchy and sample-heavy. In fact, it mixes a few different genres, which gives it a really ambitious sound. However, this contains some of the more negative lyrics of the album. The beat, as always, is upbeat and catchy, but the lyrics talk about women and “rolling a 7,” which refers to losing in craps, also referred to as “dying” or “crapping out.”
This song features MIA, who is oftentimes controversial, which kind of works out. Her background vocals are weird, and I found them kind of annoying, but not annoying enough to completely ruin the song. However, this is compensated, when they eventually cut off her background noise and jump into a great verse with Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar. Ultimately, MIA makes up for the first half of the song with her verse, which is actually pretty good. This is definitely not my favorite song on the album, but, in my opinion, it’s not terrible in and of itself.
Secret Life of Tigers
This song feels kind of like a one-sided conversation between Pharrell and someone raised conservative. Shay Haley’s vocals are a great addition to this track, and every aspect of it really works together. Pharrell literally drags some unknown person’s parents, and I could not be more here for it. This track is great.
This song is the chillest song on the album. No doubt about it. Not only that, but it’s motivational. Full disclosure, I’m a fan of whatever Ed Sheeran does, so his participation in this track had me immediately excited. I was not disappointed. The underlying message of this song is that when someone is talking about you behind your back, it doesn’t matter. “So let them say what they want.” I know I’ve said this about half the songs, but this really is one of my favorite tracks on the album. I love Ed Sheeran’s cool vocals; the entire track is fire, but in the chillest way (if that makes sense?).