Sunday, January 10, 2010

Behind the Boards Pt. 3: The Neptunes

The Neptunes, individually known as Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, have amassed one of the greatest production discographies (if not the greatest) of this past decade. Recently, Billboard gave them that exact distinction. Once again, picking 10 songs was incredibly difficult. The Neptunes have created such an extensive catalogue, that you could easily swap 5 of these songs out for 5 different ones, and it would be difficult to argue. I read a statistic that in 2003, 50% of the songs on mainstream radio were produced by The Neptunes- that is absolutely astonishing, and a feat that likely won't happen again for some time. Anyways, here are my Neptunes top 10...

1) Snoop Dogg- Drop It Like It's Hot

I remember the first time I heard "Drop It," how dumfounded I was by the 'tongue click' that is a main part of this song. But the more I heard it, the more it grew on me, and now it's one of my favorite songs ever. Surprisingly, it took The Neptunes to give Snoop his first #1 hit, and it stayed at the stop of the charts for 3 weeks. Recently, Billboard named "Drop It Like It's Hot" the most popular song of the decade, and in my opinion, it's hard to argue otherwise.

2) Gwen Stefani- Hollaback Girl

I'm not the biggest Gwen Stefani fan (I'm really not a fan at all), but 'Hollaback Girl' deserves your attention. The reason why is the infectious cheerleader-type beat. In typical sparse Neptunes fashion, it's the big, epic sounding drums, and the infectious hook that draw you in. You won't catch me going out of the way to listen to it, but you can't deny how popular this song is. "Hollaback Girl" reached the top of the Billboard charts and basically established Gwen Stefani as a solo artist.

3) Justin Timberlake- Rock Your Body

Without question my favorite Justin Timberlake song, "Rock Your Body" is the song that made me stop 'hating' on JT and finally become a fan. Certainly a lot of credit goes it to The Neptunes and Timbaland for providing him with top-notch music, but he added his own flavor and made the music hot.

4) Britney Spears- I'm a Slave 4 U

Even though the majority of Britney's songs are wack, "I'm a Slave 4 U" is certainly one that is pretty hot. Pharrell and Chad hooked her up with a hot beat with the standard 'Neptunes sound,' but it works. It didn't do quite as well commercially as some of her previous songs, but it garnered a fair amount of praise from critics for a style that was edgier than her past work.

5) Clipse- Grindin'

Grindin'... one of the hottest beats and songs of all time. I remember back in the day, in middle school, I would pound the beat out on the lunchroom table or on the bleachers of the gymnasium- it was just such an infectious beat. The drums are way too hard, and Pusha T and Malice come with serious heat, lyrically. With lines like "I move cane like a cripple," and "some days I wasn't able, but there was always cane," (get it?) they left no secrets as to what they were talking about. "Grindin'" is always in my iPod rotation and that probably won't change for years to come.

6) Usher- U Don't Have to Call

While he's not one of my favorites, there's no question that Usher's got some hits under his belt. One of which is definitely this Neptunes-produced beauty. Their signature sound was perfect for Usher, and the hook and video are memorable as well.

7) Kelis- Milkshake

To be honest, I had never heard of Kelis until "Milkshake" came out, but once I heard it, I knew I'd never forget. It was so hot, you couldn't front on it. The lead synth in the song is hard, which gives "Milkshake" the perfect edge to make it more than just a 'pop' song. The video is pretty fun to look at too...

8) Clipse- Wamp Wamp (What It Do)

While the chorus kinda ruins the song, the beat for "Wamp Wamp" is one of the craziest and best Neptunes beats to date. Pusha and Malice, once again, never fail to rip the track to shreds. There was a little bit of controversy surrounding this beat as Foxy Brown or Lil Kim (I can't recall which) wanted this beat, but Pharrell insisted that the Clipse have it. Some feelings were hurt, and I believe there was the threat of a possible lawsuit, but luckily everything worked out and the Clipse were able to work their magic.

9) Busta Rhymes- Pass the Courvoisier Pt. 2

"Pass the Courvoisier Pt. 2" is without a doubt one of the hottest songs I've ever heard. There is no way you can sit still when this jam comes on. Pharrell lends a hand on the hook, and Diddy adds a verse as well as some adlibs, to create an unforgettable track.

10) Nelly- Hot In Herre

Although Nelly is a pretty lame rapper, there's no denying that "Hot In Herre" was a HUGE song when it dropped. Everyone has heard it at least once, and it went on to be a cultural phenomenon to some extent. It was Nelly's first #1 song, and is widely considered to be one of the biggest songs of the past 10 years. Love him or hate him, Nelly and The Neptunes got this one right.

Honorable Mention: Mystikal- Shake Ya Ass, P. Diddy- Diddy, Clipse- Cot Damn, LL Cool J- Luv U Better

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