N.E.R.D have shared three tracks from comeback album ‘NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES’ (out December 15), each more frantic than the last. Rihanna’s starring verse on the future-gazing ‘Lemon’ was a saving grace. Andre 3000-collaboration ‘Rollinem 7s’ was from the same headspace – all glitchy, stop-start samples and monotone bass. Next up: ‘1000’, a cluttered, unpredictable nosedive into mad, maximalist noise.
‘1000’ is about getting rich and learning how to deal with it. While Pharrell Williams casts his eye at the band’s funk-rock rise to the top (“Holy shit it’s working, now look at my friends”), Atlanta rapper Future uses autotune to explore his diamond-encrusted surroundings (“We got gold by the bar, that’s thousands / We can gamble right now, bet a thousand, shoot a thousand”).
These dollar-counting declarations sound like they’re from different worlds. Future’s vocal is slightly off-key, alien compared to Pharrell’s vocal-free style. He’s working to a different beat too, one less naggingly in-your-face. And just like the best of Future’s work, each boast comes with its own bittersweet aftertaste. He’s magnetically detached from success, and it’s a guest spot that deserves more running time, just like with Rihanna’s on ‘Lemon’.
For a group renowned for mastering flow and space, N.E.R.D don’t seem capable of keeping a lid on their wild ideas. When ’1000’ goes hard, which it does for about 30 seconds, it bounces off the walls and matches the all-caps sound Pharrell and co. intend to master. Otherwise, it’s entirely lacking in cool restraint – the exact quality N.E.R.D kickstarted their career with.