John Fortunato

Before becoming an international jetsetter, fashionable singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams co-championed Virginia Beach musical troupe NERD with Neptunes partner, Chad Hugo. Together, the dominant beatmeisters produced massive hits for Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, Nelly and many other well-known artists along the way.

In 2013, his blockbuster collaboration with singer Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines,” took the world by storm. Soon after, Pharrell hit the top of the charts once again with gleeful handclapped celebration, “Happy,” a ubiquitous R & B ditty now used in a Fiat car ad.

A debonair brown-skinned African-Filipino American with ready-made runway model good looks (and recently, a vintage park ranger-like Vivienne Westwood brown hat), Pharrell’s enormous popularity has reached superstar status.


In springtime 2010, High Times got to visit the soon-to-be famous musician at his Soho Manhattan boutique clothing store, The Ice Cream Shoppe. Though reticent to detail his own experiences with the ‘fine herb,’ Pharrell did offer a few choice tidbits concerning marijuana legalization, culture and critics. Strangely, the genesis for ”Happy” seems to emanate from the Zen-like worldview he expresses towards the end of the interview.


Who were some of your formative musical influences?


As a child, I spent a lot of time in the backseat of my mom and dad’s car listening to Earth Wind & Fire. It wasn’t my own choice. That’s what they listened to. Maurice White (EW&F’s de facto leader) was part of Ramsey Lewis Trio. He had an extensive Jazz background. His chord changes were always very difficult. There was that magical signature moment – usually a bridge – that sweet moment that takes you elsewhere in the universe. Those things stimulate you and are otherworldly in nature, taking you to another dimension and giving you a sense of euphoria. As a kid, music was that stimulus. Music had THC – meaning ‘to have color.’

 Your vehicle to escapism is music. Do you believe marijuana enhances the experience?


My music is conducive to that environment of escapism. Whatever you do and practice in your leisure, such as partaking in the fruits of the world of High Times – a magazine that’s almost a transcendental read – it’s about relaxation. More than anything else, it’s the mentality of High Times. Other magazines talk about smoking herb, but High Times is more like a celebration of culture. You don’t necessarily have to smoke or inhale anything to enjoy High Times. It’s a natural congregation.


High Times salutes marijuana’s value as a viable herbal medication. There are no major pitfalls if it’s used to experience pleasure or to rid pain.


Truth of the matter is it’s organically grown. There are medical advantages depending on what you’re doing. But it’s not a manmade plant. It’s real. All signs point to universal legalization. I was talking to Snoop Dogg about doing a Humboldt County Greenstock festival that would bring together the eco-friendly community and the herbal community and see what interesting energy would be there. Substances that need to be refined in order to make them – that’s another conversation. We’re talking about substances that come from the earth and sustain it without being refuted. Why not come together on common ground for humanity. Greenstock would be one of the biggest festivals ever because it’s based on music giving back to the earth.


Marijuana also helps people reach erotic stimulation through its transcendental qualities. In your music, eroticism equals intoxication.    


Sure. There’s a lot of eroticism in my life. Someone has to express it and give people an outlet. Intimate relationships are based on a high level of trust. I just want to provide the soundtrack to those moments. We’re fooling around with audio stimulants to moisten the environment for women, if you will, giving them inspiration, even if they’re getting desensitized by every music video having girls in thongs with fake tits. To each his own. I like a woman who’s natural and not perfect. What idealists and snobby folks see as perfection, I see as a flaw. You might as well date a mannequin. I’m not into augmentation. But I just want to participate in this world – a character in God’s book. It’s not my story. I can’t tell you what your top or behind is supposed to look like carving out that hourglass shape.


Do you get buzzed in the studio with the artists you work with?


I work with Snoop all the time and with The Game. Those guys have their leisure activities. The aroma is there.


Has America become more accepting of marijuana since Obama became president?


Yes. But we have a lot of cleaning up to do. We have an incredible country with such opportunity. But we should change our focus and stop talking about the endgame. OK, cool – The American Dream. A house, two-car garage, picket fence, 2.5 kids, little dog. But the American Dream should be about finding what you love to do in life. People spend so much time concentrating on the endgame. It’s not about a $50,000 watch. It’s about remembering where you came from. If you’re not religious – fine. But be cool to other people. If you like flipping burgers and someone comes in and blows your brains out, that’s a good life. If you’re a billionaire and can’t be happy about anything, switching wives like rims on a car, you’re fucking miserable. Focus on what makes you happy first and foremost. Then, hopefully you’ll meet your wife and you’re two happy fucks.


Some people are too close-minded and ultra-conservative to understand true happiness. They’re perfectly fucking miserable.


You have people who are against all herbal practices. They don’t understand it. But let’s go in their closet and see what’s going on. “We don’t smoke.” Well, let’s see what you do because you aren’t perfect. You shouldn’t drive when you’re high, but you also shouldn’t drive when you’re on codeine and cough syrup. Even conservatives smoke. Our last president (GW Bush) had his fair share of high times. Unfortunately, dispelling things is a much harder task than establishing fear. That’s what we’ve been based on in America. How come the American Dream isn’t a blueprint? It’s more like a photo you’re more than likely never to see. Communist and Third World nations have suppression and oppression. They don’t want the American Dream. They’re just happy doing what they want to do – making a little money doing what they like.


What’s in the future for Pharrell?


I wanna make people happy.