HOMETOWN: Virginia Beach, Va.
LATEST CD: The Neptunes Present…Clones
•Why you know him: One-half of the ubiquitous producing duo the Neptunes (with Chad Hugo, 29), Williams had written and produced singles for everyone from Nelly (“Hot in Herre”) to Britney Spears (“I’m a Slave 4 U”) before taking the mike on the hip-hop hit “Frontin'” (featuring Jay-Z) off The Neptunes Present…Clones, which debuted at No. 1 in August.
•In the beginning: The oldest of three sons of Pharoah Williams, 51, a handyman, and his wife, Carolyn, 48, a teacher, Williams hooked up with partner Hugo in seventh-grade band class. “Being a drummer is megamacho,” says Williams, who played in the school band. “I’m constantly pushing myself. I got that from band camp. We were pushed on a military level.”
•Big break: After selling their first song, 1992’s raucous “Rump Shaker,” to Wreckx N Effect while still in high school, Williams and Hugo started working with artists as diverse as Snoop Dogg and No Doubt. “Music is music, man,” says Williams. Besides, “when we talk about ideas for a song, Pharrell’s like a car salesman you can trust,” says Hugo. “If he wanted to quit the music business, he could go on QVC.” Consider Mary J. Blige sold. “Pharrell is a very sweet guy,” says Blige, who worked with the Neptunes on her disc Share My World. “If he writes a song, he writes the song for you.”
•Love life: Tracks like his band N.E.R.D.’s “Lapdance” aside, Williams, who lives alone in his hometown, is the marrying kind. “I wrote a song for Usher called ‘Wifey Where Are You?’ That’s my telegram to my wife, whoever she is.” Seems he’s looking for a woman like buddy Justin Timberlake‘s squeeze, Cameron Diaz. “His girlfriend is on top of the world and at the same time is so humble. She takes care of him, and he looks after her, and it’s so great.”
•Where he’s headed: He’s currently collaborating with Jay-Z and Timberlake. Plus he’s working with two “huge” Latin singers he won’t name: “I just want you to hear their songs and go, ‘You know what? It’s in Spanish, but I like it.'”