My favourite mixtape ever is Pharrell’s In My Mind: The Prequel, the Gangsta Grillz joint he did with DJ Drama. He put out a mixtape before he put out his first solo album and that shit was crazy. Pharrell is my musical idol and I would anticipate so much of his production but back when the tape dropped, it just showed how lyrical he was and how crazy he was with the rapping.
I think a lot of people listened to that tape and said ‘this nigga can really rap’, and the beats he was rhyming over were just classics. You had Wu-Tang tracks, Outkast tracks and just shit you wouldn’t expect him to rap over. For him to showcase his ability to rap was, to me, everything at that time.
I was always a fan of the Neptunes, way back to when I heard Noreaga’s ‘Superthug’ and I didn’t even know it was them at the time, but I started digging into what it was throughout high school. Once I got into high school, that’s when I started getting into N.E.R.D. and deeper into the Neptunes’ catalogue.
I was leaving school with one of my homies who has passed away, and I remember it vividly because there was a shootout in my neighbourhood. My homie was telling me about the mixtape, and we were so excited for the album, but when the mixtape came out it was a surprise.
So I listened to In My Mind in my neighbourhood but I couldn’t listen to it all at the same time because we actually had to run from the shootout! I’ll never forget it; I was at the barbershop in my neighbourhood and I was three songs in then we ran, and I got back to it later.
I was already a huge music fan and during that time, I just knew that it was great and realised just how great it was later on. I can’t really say the tape came at a significant time in my life because when the In My Mind album came out I kind of forgot about the mixtape. But everytime I listen to it, it just takes me back to my youth.
My first impressions after listening to it were like ‘Yo, this motherfucker is a god!’ He was freestyling throughout the whole tape and some of the things he was saying were just amazing. It made me believe this man can really rap his ass off. It was a legit mixtape, with scratching in the background and the back and forth he was saying on every track before it started. I did not expect that from Pharrell at all.
He had a few features on the tape, like T.I., Pusha T and Ab-Liva, and I had known about those guys, but I really didn’t know many of the beats Pharrell was rapping over. I had never heard of GZA’s ‘Liquid Swords’, for example, until then. He rapped over a lot of other people’s beats.
The mixtape cover is just like the In My Mind album cover, but with DJ Drama next to Pharrell, and I remember that being significant because from that point on, a lot of people would copy that style and approach.
It definitely made me think about the actual production because they had to have been really special for him to rap over them. The cover also made me appreciate real hip-hop music, even more than I already had. At that time, I was listening to a lot of Hov, Radiohead etc. but that mixtape put me onto music I had never heard before. It was like playing video games and hearing songs you think are dope, and then you go back to them.
The tape made me want to dig for different artists and songs, and I started copping vinyl and going to record shops to search for music. I don’t really do that no more but the tape made me start. I had a physical copy of the tape as well, but in my old neighbourhood, our crib got broken into and I lost a lot of stuff. I wish I still had it!
My favourite song out of the whole tape is ‘Music for the Gangstas’, just because he was going so crazy and that was the one I played the most.
If I could put a price on the mixtape, I’d probably put a standard album price on it, like $13.99, and I say that because if it was in stores, I would buy it for that price.
I would say In My Mind: The Prequel is classic, innovative and cocky. Pharrell is on his rich nigga shit and he is really Skateboard P all over the tape. Its timeless because you’re never going to get that Pharrell again. That’s one of his greatest lyrical contributions ever and you’ll never see him in that lane again.
Words by Wara From The NBHD.