Delays in any medium are never a good sign. However, in the hip-hop world, pushed release dates come with the territory. More often than not, it’s a tactic employed to fine-tune and obsessively polish, a sure sign that the eternally held up record just might be a masterpiece in the making. While dropping the most inescapable beat of Snoop Dogg’s career (“Drop It Like It’s Hot”) and exploding conventional hip-hop with his partner Chad Hugo, dazzling producer-turned-face-of-Louis Vuitton Pharrell Williams’ solo debut In My Mind has been gestating for close to two years. Fair enough—perhaps the ubiquitous producer needed a little more time behind the board. But then you notice how the album is being released in July (the musical equivalent of dumping a movie in January) and how the press materials reassuringly wrap Pharrell in a comforting blanket of PR hyperbole. It’d be nice if all of these red flags were just over-anxious label execs covering their collective asses, but no, In My Mind is a strangely stillborn misfire that has a few distracting flashes of brilliance, but is otherwise largely disposable. The guest stars are mostly wasted: the curiously inert Gwen Stefani collaboration “Can I Have It Like That” works much better in pieces on Girl Talk’s Night Ripper; “How Does It Feel?” evokes a Kanye West outtake that needs a little more attention; while Jay-Z’s guest verse on “Young Girl” briefly elevates that strained Prince/Usher mash-up. More distracting than Pharrell’s laidback delivery is the fact that many of the beats miss as often as they hit. The stuttering piano line fueling “Raspy Shit” is terrific, as is the noir bassline of “You Can Do It Too,” but the laughably risqué “Take It Off” and the limp “Best Friend” slow the album to a crawl. Stylish and confident to a fault, Pharrell’s success as a solo artist is, unfortunately, pretty much where the album title says it is.
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