Pharrell Williams strides through a wealth of pressing topics in his latest interview with GQ. Over the course of the lengthy cover story, the artist discusses the reaction to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (which Pharrell featured on), and how that “blew [his] mind” and opened his eyes to “chauvinist culture.”
Elsewhere, Pharrell talks genderless dressing and the importance of flexing less and rather embracing humility, something he says he learned from A Bathing Ape founder Nigo, who he met two decades ago.
In fact, Pharrell makes so many interesting observations that we’ve rounded up the best quotes. Find them all below and then head over to GQ for the full story.
On ‘Blurred Lines’
“I think “Blurred Lines” opened me up. I didn’t get it at first. […] I realized that there are men who use that same language when taking advantage of a woman, and it doesn’t matter that that’s not my behavior. Or the way I think about things. It just matters how it affects women. My mind opened up to what was actually being said in the song and how it could make someone feel. Even though it wasn’t the majority, it didn’t matter. I cared what they were feeling too. I realized that we live in a chauvinist culture in our country. Hadn’t realized that. Didn’t realize that some of my songs catered to that. So that blew my mind.”
On 2006’s ‘Gangsta Grillz’ mixtape
“I could never listen to it now, because I was bragging so much. I’m so embarrassed by that. I behaved so obnoxiously. But I didn’t know no better.”
On flexing less and bowing more
“I started bowing almost 20 years ago, when I met Nigo. His cars, his houses, his apartments—he was such an incredible collector. But this guy would not say one word. He just bowed all the time. When I went to Japan, I had never met a more humble culture. Nigo’s way of humility, and Tokyo’s way of humility, was seeping into my soul. And then the more I humbled myself down, the less I bragged. The less that I felt like I needed to flex. Humility is a skill set. It’s an art form. It’s something you work at.”
On people hiding behind screens
“When people are online, they have their real identity; then they have, like, a nickname. Right? It gives them this ability to be whoever they wanna be. That’s a spirit. Because they’re no longer defined by the physical—the responsibilities of being connected to all that is. Online your spirit is free to be whatever it wants to be. And what do you see online? Fuckin’ warfare.”
“What is happening to a transgender person? What are they going through? They feel like their body is not connected to their spirit. And what kind of toxic environment do we live in that they have to justify how they feel? That must feel incredibly insane.”
On gender-fluid dressing
“It started with the “I can pull that off” thing. I wore a lot of Chanel, and I wore tons of Céline. Like, I got all the O.G. Céline. Because they were clothes I could fit in. When you listen to yourself and you’re comfortable in who you are, you wear what you feel like fits and looks right on you. And that’s it.
My point is, why not? What rule [is there]? And when people start using religion as the reason someone shouldn’t wear something, I’m like, What are you talking about? There was no such thing as a bra or blouse in any of the old sacred texts. What are you talking about?I was also born in a different era, where the rules of the matrix at that time allowed a lot of things that would never fly today.”
On his “This Is Her Time” adidas campaign
“My thing is, Why hasn’t it happened yet? The focus on all things women. How is it considered controversial to have pregnant women in a campaign? That’s considered, in some instances, taboo, and in other instances, controversial, and in other instances, racy. And I’m like, “What’s racy about a pregnant woman?” What’s racy? We are on the eve of 2020.”