For the NYT project, called The African-American Art Shaping the 21st Century, 35 black artists were asked to reveal the piece of work that inspired them the most. Abloh picked N.E.R.D.’s album In Search of... from 2001. “There’s an interview where [Williams] classically said, ‘The album is too white for black radio and too black for white radio,'” Abloh revealed.
He continued: “As a kid growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, skateboarding and finding my own identity, it resonated with me more than hip-hop on its own. [It said] that it was fine to be in between. And I think that has described a whole generation of young black kids and artists who have since been determined to be themselves.”
Abloh then praised Williams for breaking barriers and taking risks. “The prototype at the time was that you had to be a thug or an athlete or a rapper. And then he came along with a different panache as a producer, an artist, a tastemaker, an individual.”
He concluded by admitting that Pharrell’s risk-taking has impacted his work today. “A lot of the freedom that exhibits in my practice is of that same sort of risk-taking.”