The return of 90s hip-hop legends N.E.R.D seems to have passed by without much fanfare, people seemingly forgetting just how much the group; made of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley, shaped the modern pop landscape. NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES is a collection of nostalgia trips, ideal for those amongst us still revelling in the dream of the 90s.
N.E.R.D aren’t afraid to call in their most influential connections, launching straight in with a Rihanna feature that would have you believe the hiatus never really happened. The beats are dripped in classic video game soundtracks, providing Rihanna’s cuss-laden verses with metronome-like charm. Boasting features of this calibre indicate a group who refuse to initiate a soft comeback, choosing instead to come out all colourful laser guns raging just incase you’d forgotten the legacy N.E.R.D left behind.
The Future featuring 1000 flies past at a speed greater than light speed. The marching band led beats are a subtle nod to the Virginia school band that acted as introduction between Williams and Hugo. N.E.R.D aren’t afraid to take their legacy too seriously, cumulating in a record that was potentially more fun to record than it is to listen to as a whole piece.
Once again calling in favours from the cream of the hip hop crop, N.E.R.D enlist none other than king Kendrick Lamar for Don’t Don’t Do It! – a truck that is so West coast it hurts! The grooves nod to the late great soul stylings of south west America, big on the electric guitar slides and an even bigger catalyst for unabashed old school revelry. Always ones to enlist more acronyms, M.I.A is added to the eclectic mix on Kites; which boasts the second Kendrick feature of the record. Taking on board M.I.A’s Sri-Lankan influence, there is an intriguing blend of cultures that for the most part works – although the unsettled layout of the track don’t provide enough consistency to indulge in.
N.E.R.D have chosen to close their big comeback record with the Ed Sheehan featuring track; Lifting You, and so the less said about that the better. For a group with so much history, N.E.R.D have failed to make the earth move on what should have been a year defining return. It’s not a bad album; far from it, but when you expect the utmost and are delivered compromise there isn’t much left to soak up and enjoy.