One of the leading figures in modern hip-hop and R&B, Pharrell Williams began making music in grade school and partner Chad Hugo was there from the beginning; they met in seventh grade when both played in a marching band. After graduating high school the two formed the Neptunes, originally as an R&B quartet, and were discovered by hot producer Teddy Riley. Studio gigs with Wreckz-n-Effect and SWV followed, and by 1994 Williams and Hugo had shed the two cofounders and restyled the Neptunes as a production duo. Their trademark sound, incorporating old-school funk, spacey synths and world-music elements, emerged on the 1998 N.O.R.E. hit "Superthug." Over the next five years the duo racked up numerous hits, going mult-platinum with Britney Spears' "I'm a Slave 4U," Nelly's "Hot in Here," Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" and Justin Timberlake's album Justified. In one of their more surprising moves, the Neptunes (with original cofounder Shay Haley re-added to the lineup) then reinvented themselves as N.E.R.D. (an acronym for No-one Ever Really Dies), a band crossing hip-hop with alternative rock. The unusual circumstances of N.E.R.D.'s 2002 debut, In Search Of..., got plenty of attention at the time: After recording the album in electronic Neptunes style and releasing that in Europe, they changed their minds and replaced all the backing tracks with a live rock band (Spymob, who had previously worked with the Neptunes). The lead single "Lapdance" was more subversive than it initially seemed, its sexual humor giving way to the punchline "Politicians sound like strippers to me." Though not as big a chart success as the Neptunes' pop productions, N.E.R.D. won them a new audience and became an ongoing project, After a seven-year break N.E.R.D. Made its fifth album No One Ever Really Dies in 2017, with a round of star guests including Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna and Ed Sheeran. Williams remained a major chart presence through the 2010s, both solo and Neptunes. His 2006 solo debut In My Mind was only a moderate success, though its singles featured collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Kanye West and Gwen Stefani. He branched into soundtracks, scoring the 2010 movie "Despicable Me" and its 2014 sequel. The latter included "Happy" which was the best-selling song of 2014 and a cultural phenomenon, spawning videos throughout the world of fans singing and dancing to it. Williams was also involved as a writer and/or producer with a number of major hits including Daft Punk's "Lucky", Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," and Miley Cyrus' album Bangerz. Williams' business ventures also proved successful, 2012 brought the launch of I Am Other, a multi-media venture that includes his clothes company the Billionaire Boys Club along with a million-dollar YouTube channel producing original programming. In 2014 Williams made his debut as a coach on NBC-TV's "The Voice" (NBC 2012- ), taking the slot vacated by CeeLo Green.