You ever have that moment when you were young where you finally understand yourself? Not fully understand yourself cause you’re still doing dumb shit but you understand yourself enough that you’ll stand on what makes you happy no matter what people think? You start to focus on how things make you feel instead of how it makes others feel and you start to unlock pieces of who you truly are.
This took place for me towards the end of high school. Starting out as a teenager I showed glimpses of my personality and interests but I usually held back and never showed what I was truly interested in until I was in my room at home. From the time I was 10 years old until I was about 17 my life was predicated on being tough and sports. I was always trying to impress people (mainly girls) by showing them I’m into everything everyone else is into.
When I turned 18 I started to not giving a fuck mainly because I was failing almost all of my classes. My true personality started to shine through. The funny thing about it is that’s when more people of all types gravitated towards me. Street niggas, Nerds, athletes, loners, girls. They thought I was an interesting guy and I started to shift the way they thought about things.
That’s N.E.R.D’s Fly or Die.
"In Search Of” is generally everyone’s favorite N.E.R.D album on some hype beast shit. It’s their most popular album so some people believe if they don’t think “In Search Of” is the best N.E.R.D album then they’ll look like a casual and won’t fit in. That shit classic too don’t get me wrong but that’s generally everyone’s favorite because they feel like it has to be.
In Search Of was basically the same shit as me when I became a teenager. N.E.R.D showed only a glimpse of their capabilities on that album. There were brilliant songs on that album but it felt like they held back. They weren’t really developed. I don’t really compare the two albums to each other because they’re different. Just like I challenged myself to do what’s different to everyone else and like what I like, N.E.R.D challenged themselves to tweak their sound by taking more risks. Fly Or Die relied more on live instrumentation instead of production and that’s where I feel the band is at their best. They focused more on melodies and their sounds were just insane. Fly Or Die is the equivalent of a girl who had no clue how beautiful she was and then one day she finally understands she’s the baddest bitch. Think of those 80’s and 90’s teen movies. That’s what I’m talking about.
When I first heard Fly Or Die I didn’t know what to feel. I knew it was good but it wasn’t what I expected because it was totally different sonically than In Search Of. Fly or Die was like the first time I went to an amusement park. The junk food, the rides, the prizes, the arcades, it was a place I never wanted to leave because there were fun things everywhere I turned and they all gave me different feelings. There’s a broader range of styles on this album. Everything N.E.R.D experiments with they fit in like chameleons. I learned this at my age now when I went back and listened to their entire discography.
Vocally Pharrell was better. The jams were better. They felt more cohesive. The first time I heard “Maybe” I thought to myself “Is this the best song I’ve ever heard?” I then saw the “Maybe” video on MTV back when MTV was actually playing music videos and I remember the colors of the video and me wanting that Red varsity jacket Pharrell had on and the B.B.C shirts he had on. Watching the music videos just made me feel like I belonged to this group of misfits that understood me. They also played the “She Wants To Move” video on MTV and I vividly remember that scene in the video where Pharrell is dancing on a motorcycle with a bad bitch on the back with this fly ass green jacket and silver helmet. I was like “Damn how the fuck can I be that cool?” They just blew my mind away with everything they did. Mind you, N.E.R.D is the only rock band I’m listening to at this point. I didn’t really know anything about rock at that time AT ALL. I liked rock songs by other great bands but I never played any rock albums regularly like I did N.E.R.D. You know how old white people love The Beatles and remember when they came to America when they were kids? N.E.R.D are my Beatles. They’re The Beatles for real niggas. They're my phenomenon.
I seriously might cry if I describe to you in person how much the Fly or Die album means to me. I’m so nervous to meet Chad, Shae, and Pharrell. I just might faint. Fly or Die came to me at a time in my life where I was scared for my future. I was watching so many people have everything set for them and promised futures and here I am not even eligible to talk to the high school counselor about college applications because there was no way in hell a college would accept me. Fly or Die helped me realize that I’ll be okay if I go in a different direction. Then as an adult and confused where to go or what to do in life I always came back to this album to uplift me. I can either fly or die standing still and not going towards things that energize me. Take chances creatively.
Every time I hear "Chariot Of Fire" I wanna clean my house high. The song was actually dedicated to a fan named Mildred who had cancer so that’s what the lyrics in the beginning of the song are speaking about. So knowing that it feels even better. Then "Find My Way" can be compared to so many things in my life. Running away from love. Trying to find the road back to your happiness. Find My Way doesn’t get the respect it deserves as one of N.E.R.D’s best songs. The bass on "She Wants To Move" makes me want to do drugs. Natural drugs of course. My long term goal is to rent out a strip club for my birthday and play She Wants To Move at least 3 times and see all the lovely strippers throw ass to it as I throw my 401K in the air hell I’ll even play "The Way She Dances" and make strippers dance like bitches in the 80’s. "Drill Sergeant" sounds like something I would sing at the top of my lungs in a treehouse I have built in my backyard with a paper pirate hat on my head. “Wonderful Place” was the song that reminded me of songs on In Search Of. “Breakout" helps me not be passive aggressive and rage the fuck out. The title track "Fly or Die" sounds like something that should’ve been in the first Tony Hawk Pro Skater on Playstation. “Jump" makes me wish I started a food fight at school when I had the chance.
I really love everything about this album from start to finish and I don’t know where my mind would be without this album in my life. This was the album where I understood how powerful the influence of music is.
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