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‘What If I Don’t Delight in Music Anymore?’: A Wildly Simply Conversation Between BTS’ RM and Pharrell Williams

BTS and Pharrell beget a secret collab coming — and that’s correct one in every of the revelations from this assembly of two superstars

At this level in their reign as the sphere’s biggest band, the contributors of BTS are accustomed to hero delight in and nervous followers. But as that crew’s chief, RM, sits across from Pharrell Williams in early September, onstage in an empty, secured auditorium at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, he’s nervous to search out himself on the opposite aspect of the equation. It feels “embarrassing,” RM says with a smile, to chat about his inventive scuttle in entrance of “my have idol.” 

Williams, eternally youthful and soft-skinned (needless to divulge), is relaxed and total of miniature talk, in a leather jacket, matching leather shorts, boots, and a blinding array of ice-studded jewellery on one wrist. RM, in a Bottega Veneta double-breasted brown swimsuit, is quieter, seemingly shuffling thru the a broad preference of questions he’s ready in his head. 

For all these two males beget in not novel, thousands of miles and a pair of a long time separated their coming of age. From the distance of Virginia Seaside in the Eighties, a young Williams became once ready to beget a examine the increase of hip-hop practically from its birth, sooner than turning actual into a key power in that genre and plenty of others as one half of the Neptunes and on his have. When RM became once growing up outdoor of Seoul, rap had already long past global, to the level where Nas, Eminem, and native groups take care of Epik High would possibly well perhaps seduce a studious South Korean dinky one into devoting his life to song — which, after some twists and turns, led him to BTS as a substitute of the underground hip-hop profession he imagined.

Both artists switch between in the serve of-the-scenes work and performing. To boot to to producing and writing for BTS, RM has done the same for songs by many other South Korean artists; Williams has been inserting that steadiness take care of no person else since the Clinton administration — this one year by myself, he’s produced tracks for Kendrick Lamar, Pusha T, and Rosalía, while enlisting 21 Savage and Tyler, the Creator for his have single “Cash In Cash Out.”

Even sooner than this conversation, Williams and RM joined forces. As Williams displays, he honest now not too prolonged in the past recorded a song with BTS, working remotely, for his subsequent album. RM has a debut solo album of his have on the plot in which, and for the length of their conversation, Williams makes him an horny offer related to it.  About a weeks after this conversation, BTS’ place, Hybe, declares that the crew’s contributors shall be serving mandatory militia service and would possibly well level of curiosity on solo work sooner than reuniting in 2025. On the present time, RM is frank about the very fact that he and BTS are at a crossroads in their lives and profession, and he’s unafraid to ask for Yoda-sort advice from any individual whose nonstop form-transferring has been rewarded with unmatched, decade-spanning success.

RM and Pharrell Williams photographed at MOCA in Los Angeles on Sept. 15, 2022. PHOTOGRAPH BY MASON POOLE FOR ROLLING STONE. RM: COAT, SUIT, AND SHOES BY BOTTEGA VENETA. WILLIAMS: JACKET AND SHORTS BY MIU MIU. BOOTS BY RIER. JEWELRY IS WILLIAMS’ OWN.

RM:  I correct need to level to [your 2006 solo song] “Bewitch It Off (Shaded the Lights).” Because that became once on one in every of my playlists. I even translated it into Korean and recorded it once after I became once an newbie.

Williams:  Whoa! That’s crazy.

RM:  This day genre doesn’t imply the leisure. But at that point, I negate some rappers criticized the rappers who dispute or use Auto-Tune. Generally you dispute, every now and then you rap, every now and then you correct dispute the hook. So how invent you station yourself when you get rid of half in a song as a performer?

Williams:  Wow. First of all, no person’s ever requested me that, deem it or now not. I design decisions based entirely mostly off feeling. I don’t design them based entirely mostly off of conference.

Hear to the ‘Musicians on Musicians’ podcast that comprises RM and Pharrell

RM:  “I got to rap.” “I got to dispute.”

Williams:  Yeah, no. It’s correct no subject it feels take care of it wants. And I’m going to channel it as most effective as I will, because of the I’m attempting to elaborate any individual else who’s greater than me to invent it. Oftentimes, what would happen became once artists shall be take care of, “Nah, we pick you to follow it there.” And I’ll be take care of, “No, however it completely’s for this person.” I channel what I feel take care of is lacking, and I neglect that it’s going to be me. Because if I negate that it’s going to be me, then it obtained’t be as factual, and I obtained’t be as confident. As an instance, there’s a file that I did with Mystikal a truly prolonged time in the past—

RM:  Wow!

Williams:  Yeah. “Shake Ya Ass.” True? Chad [Hugo] and I produced it collectively. But after I became once writing that hook, I became once pretending that Eddie Kendricks from the Temptations would possibly well perhaps invent it. I get rid of into consideration announcing to them, “Oh, man, we’re going to accumulate the guy from the Temptations to invent it.” And they had been take care of, “Nah, no. The file company wishes you to follow it there.” It became once this outlandish component where I began to realise that my sweet dwelling is after I channel other of us and I surrender to what the song wants and now not let my ego or my emotions accumulate interested. 

RM and Pharrell Williams photographed at MOCA in Los Angeles on Sept. 15, 2022. PHOTOGRAPH BY MASON POOLE FOR ROLLING STONE. WILLIAMS: BOOTS AND PANTS BY BOTTEGA VENETA. RM: JACKET, PANTS AND SHOES BY BOTTEGA VENETA.

RM:  As a team, we’ve been to the U.N., and we also met President Biden. We by no draw idea these things [would happen], however I negate naturally we grew to turn into one in every of the representatives from the Asian community. I’m always thinking to myself, “Am I that factual? Fabricate I deserve the full responsibilities?” And I’m essentially doubting myself. I’ve heard that you invent quite loads of stuff for the community. So I surprise how you take care of the full responsibilities to be factual and actual.

Williams:  I imply, the [charity] work that I invent, there’s always a circumstance. Either I’d notify some tiring shit after which remorse it later, or there’s been a time after I in fact beget a file that make of affected a specific portion of a demographic. So then it made me negate things otherwise. After which I crawl speak up a [nonprofit] and act towards the lack of awareness that I became once a portion of. And educate myself, utter myself. Then other instances, I also invent it because of the of what you correct stated. 

Must you ask yourself, “Man, am I factual adequate?” Or, “Fabricate I deserve all this?” I negate what makes it simpler for me to sleep at night is after I crawl invent that work. It helps acknowledge these questions. It’s take care of, wherever there became once a deficit for your self belief of you deserving to be right here or getting that make of apprehension from the followers, wherever the minus is, this provides to it. 

RM: I am hoping all of my confusion and these tedious thoughts will abet my life recuperate, [and I can] be a greater grown-up for the followers.

Williams:  What of us don’t understand is when you’ve got actually a total bunch of hundreds of thousands of followers and also you bump into them 100,000 at a time . . .

RM:  Can’t detect a single face. It’s correct a mass.

Williams:  It is miles a broad vitality coming at you, and also you notify, “Jump.”

RM:  Then they soar.

Williams:  Then they soar. And you dispute, and they dispute every note. And you’re going to also feel thru their voices that so quite loads of their lives had been affected and adjusted because of the of something you’ve done. I don’t know how you invent that. Because I’ve had a pair songs invent that, after which after I accumulate accessible and crawl dispute it, that would design me shout because of the it became once too noteworthy of a accountability. Man, at any time after I accumulate that with reference to that, I always step serve.

RM:  Why? Is it too heavy?

Williams:  It’s too heavy, man. It’s too noteworthy of a accountability. That’s why I essentially revere of us take care of yourself and your band contributors and other artists take care of Bey and Jay and even Kanye — take care of, man, what y’all exit there and crawl face every night on that stage? It is miles humbling and it’s overwhelming. And every now and then your nervous system has got to be built for that. Let me ask you this, how invent you deal after you come off the stage, feeling electrified and scared every night, how invent you decompress?

I’m a human and I essentially accumulate nervous and I every now and then accumulate abominable by, and even accumulate swallowed by, the full energies,” RM says. “But I try and take care of it because of the I love the song.

RM:  My first performance became once in entrance of 10 of us in some miniature golf equipment after I became once, take care of, 15. And I forgot most of the lyrics. So at that point I seen, “Oh, I’m now not a celeb form. I’m now not one in every of these frontmen who would possibly well perhaps revel in all this shit take care of Kurt Cobain or Mick Jagger.” I’m correct a human who loves writing song.

As an instance, we had these stadium presentations in Las Vegas final April. It became once four nights. But every night is a matter. After we enact the first three songs after which we get rid of out the earphones and we’re take care of, “We’re fucking serve” — from that moment, there’s a diversified persona, a diversified me for the subsequent two hours and a half. But sooner than that, from the rehearsal and even in the airplane, I got essentially, essentially nervous and [feel] in an effort to blame, because of the I essentially am mindful that followers preserve the tickets and they come from Brazil, from Japan, Korea, from in all locations. They arrive there for correct that one night.

So it fills me, take care of I even need to pay serve. I even need to provide them among the finest night ever in their lives. So it’s a broad number, and it’s too noteworthy vitality. I’m a human and I essentially accumulate nervous and I essentially every now and then accumulate abominable by, and even accumulate swallowed by, the full energies. But I try and take care of it because of the I love the song. I love their love. Because I negate love is largely going down when we give to any individual, now not when we get rid of. So I correct need to give serve to them. They brought us from correct a miniature city in Korea, the full plot serve to the center of this song industry, Las Vegas, L.A., Contemporary York. Me having an interview with Pharrell, it would possibly well perhaps happen because of the of followers all around the sphere. I’m correct always grateful and I don’t need to disappoint them. 

BTS are at the moment in what your bandmate Suga described as an “offseason” — which got mistranslated as a “hiatus” — with more level of curiosity on solo work for the moment. RM, you’ve stated that to a specific extent, you feel take care of you’ve misplaced a mode of direction for the crew.

Williams:  I definitely had my struggles with having a lack of a mode of purpose.

RM:  When?

Williams: True round [2006], after I build out In My Mind. As quickly as it didn’t invent what I wanted it to invent — I imply, culturally it made an influence, however egotistically it didn’t compose the plot in which I wanted it to. It correct didn’t invent what I became once venerable to at that point, and that in fact hit me laborious. In verbalize that made me open to negate purpose and things having actual actual DNA and now not correct ravishing purpose, however actual actual meaning and something that shall be important to of us, however at the same time, aloof fun. And I’ve always loved the girls, so as that became once always going to be a portion of it [laughs]. 

So I understand what that is. I know what it’s take care of to hit that station for your profession for no subject motive — and also you guys are doing intellectual, however I negate from what I’m hearing and what I’m idea, you guys, you hit a station where you had been take care of, “What are we doing? Who are we? Are we who we stated we had been?”

RM:  True.

Williams:  And as you suspect about who you are and also you suspect about what you imply and what your intentions are, it’s also make of figuring out who you have to be. I imply, how’s that feel? Delight in, where are you in that process straight away? Since you’re engaged on a solo file, actual?

RM: Yes. Delight in 90 percent of the work is performed. I’ve released some mixtapes as one in every of the contributors of the band, however it completely became once correct an experiment. I negate this time it’s perhaps my legit first solo album. But it’s been, take care of, 10 years since we had our debut as a team. K-pop is all about the band and the groups. And as I told you, I in my idea began my profession as a rapper and as a poet. In verbalize that became once a elaborate portion in fact, because of the K-pop is take care of a combination. It’s the mix of American pop song, other visuals, Korea, and social media and stuff. It’s essentially intense and essentially demanding. So it has some execs and cons of its have. 

After 10 years, I negate it became once now not our design, however we in fact grew to turn into a make of a social pick, and we took it. So a K-pop band going to beget a speech at the U.N. or assembly the president, I negate I became once essentially perplexed and I’m take care of, “What am I, a diplomat or what?”

Williams: True, yeah.

Pharrell Williams photographed at MOCA in Los Angeles on Sept. 15, 2022. PHOTOGRAPH BY MASON POOLE FOR ROLLING STONE. JACKET BY MIU MIU

RM:  I became once correct a miniature rapper and lyricist after I became once young. So it became once 10 years, essentially intense as a team. And I in fact became once accountable of practically all of the interviews and representing the team in entrance of the opposite contributors. That became once my goal, I wager. I negate I got essentially . . . I don’t know, “Yo, I got to end this for a dinky. I got to shut it down and drop a ways flung from it after which correct survey what’s occurring,” making my thoughts essentially gentle down. That’s how I got to hear to my solo [album]. This day I essentially had been concerned about after I first listened to you, the first feeling and the vibe, and explanation why I began, why I selected song for my total life, I wager.

After I began my song, I became once take care of 14, and now I’m 28. So I’m in that process. It’s essentially complex and confusing, and I correct don’t know what’s going to happen. So when you happen to would possibly well perhaps give me any advice, because of the it’s diversified from the K-pop, however you’ve done quite loads of initiatives, take care of, N.E.R.D, Neptunes, and naturally your solo work. So any thoughts about . . . ?

Williams:  Being in the Neptunes, being in N.E.R.D, and having a solo file essentially helped me, because of the you invent one component after which you get rid of a shatter. You invent one other component, then you get rid of a shatter. And it lets in me to position on diversified hats and build on diversified masks. So I bear in mind the very fact that, and I know having that departure goes to design it essentially novel for you. I negate it’s factual for you to invent that because of the then when you come to it, to the crew—

RM:  To the team.

Williams:  Yeah, I negate it’s going to be nice novel. Who are the producers for your solo file?

RM:  Generally we invent our stuff on our have, and there’s an in-residence team always working with us in the place. Generally we accumulate our songs from outdoor too. It’s versatile. You design perhaps every now and then with Chad or correct for your have, actual? Is that quite loads of work?

Williams:  For me, it’s take care of Michelangelo when he became once making sculptures. He’s correct . . . and I’m going to screw this up, however his total component became once he became once correct eradicating the rocks that had been in the plot in which of the sculpture, something to that produce. It’s the same component. I’m correct carving away at it and adding layers till I feel take care of it’s actual. After which if I feel take care of I would possibly well like some abet, then I’ll attain out to any individual. My ego would accumulate in the plot in which after I became once younger, however now my loyalty is now to not my ego.

RM:  What’s it to?

RM photographed at MOCA in Los Angeles on Sept. 15, 2022. PHOTOGRAPH BY MASON POOLE FOR ROLLING STONE. JACKET, PANTS AND SHOES BY BOTTEGA VENETA

Williams:  It’s to the song. It’s how will we design the song the absolute most effective? That’s where I’m at now.

And I don’t need to invent the leisure that correct feels take care of, “Oh, that’s frosty, that’ll fit.” No, I don’t need to fit. I need to knock the wall down and need to speak the full total block on fire. No longer one room, the block. No longer the house, the block on fire. I settle on it to be on the suggestions at night. Hear: “Block on fire.”

RM:  Block on fire. B.O.F., block on fire. That’s a fab establish for a cost, in fact. 

Generally as I develop up — and I’m between my chapter one and two, take care of I stated, the crew and solo; perhaps I’m between song and perhaps [visual] art, between that. So every now and then I essentially feel taken aback, take care of, “What if I don’t take care of song anymore?” I love art. But it’s considerably diversified.

Williams: It is miles.

RM:  It is miles. Music is take care of, it’s in all locations. I’m sad, however it completely’s in all locations. Generally I essentially feel taken aback — take care of, song, it’s now not my first component anymore, make of take care of that.

Williams:  Yeah. That’s non permanent.

RM:  Oh, essentially? I’m relieved.

Williams:  Yeah. Then all of a unexpected you crawl, “Whoa. It’s among the finest component I need to negate.” It’ll happen.

RM:  What invent you accumulate from visual art, intellectual art?

How will we design the song the absolute most effective?” Williams says. “I don’t need to invent the leisure that correct feels take care of, ‘Oh, that’ll fit.’ No, I don’t need to fit. I need to speak the full total block on fire.

Williams:  I negate for every modality that now we beget, every submodality that now we beget, meaning visual, olfactory, gustatory, kinesthetic, auditory, it’s shapely noteworthy the full same. Delight in with meals, something can taste sweet or bitter. Things can smell sweet or bitter. Visually we will have the skill to survey something that looks sweet to us and something that’s bitter. With the auditory, we will have the skill to hear something that is so sweet and so pleasant, after which we will have the skill to hear something that’s take care of, “Ooh, bitter,” you know? 

And so I essentially accumulate enjoyment by working with artists in diversified inventive disciplines to select where the congruence is. Delight in, “Oh, wow, that’s your sweet. Oh, that’s your bitter.” You appreciate? 

RM:  A fun component for me with visual art is that after I listen to about a sizable song, I’m blown away, however aloof, every now and then I feel essentially jealous. It [can be] essentially, essentially painful. So it’s humorous, actual? But for visual art, I correct obtained’t design a single line because of the I need to remain as an outsider. But I’m a lover. I’m a fan. I’m a maniac. So after I sight at the full paintings and perhaps sculptures, I correct feel essentially relieved because of the I will in finding it irresistible as noteworthy as I will.

Williams:  That’s awesome.

RM:  Any unique initiatives growing for you?

Williams:  Successfully, my mission, it’s known as . . . it’s [under] my establish, and the title of the album is Phriends. It’s the quantity one. You guys [BTS] are on there, clearly. And I’m in fact speaking about this sort more than I’m presupposed to, however it completely’s a song from my album that [BTS] sang and it’s astounding, and I’m nice grateful.

RM:  I correct love this song.

Williams:  I in finding it irresistible too.

RM:  Fuck, yeah.

Williams:  Each person that hears it’s take care of, “Whoa.”

RM:  I fucking in finding it irresistible.

Williams:  I in finding it irresistible, in finding it irresistible, in finding it irresistible. But I’m correct going to position this accessible. You stated you’re 90 percent done alongside with your solo album. But when interior that final 10 percent, when you happen to need — you don’t need me, however I imply . . . 

RM: I always mandatory you, for 15 years.

Williams:  OK, neatly, when you happen to need to invent something, we will have the skill to in fact invent it.

RM:  Please.

Williams:  Yeah, and also you elaborate me what you settle on. Uptempo? We crawl uptempo.

RM:  I’m honored and grateful.

Pharrell, any closing words of recommendation for RM?

Williams:  You appreciate what? I would possibly well correct notify continue to switch forward. Continue to be outlandish. And don’t build any make of pressure on what it’s that you invent by announcing . . . No absolutes, take care of “Oh, I obtained’t ever invent song again,” or “I obtained’t ever . . . ” I wouldn’t invent any of that. I would possibly well correct—

RM:  No nevers.

Williams:  No nevers. Simply preserve alongside for the chase. Simply preserve going.

RM:  Cruising.

Williams: Yeah. And correct survey where you dwell up. Because it’s essentially attention-grabbing.

WELCOME TO ROLLING STONE’S 2022 Musicians on Musicians kit, the annual franchise where two sizable artists come collectively for a free, originate conversation about life and song. Each memoir on this one year’s sequence will appear in our November 2022 print grief, hitting stands on Nov. 8.

From Rolling Stone US.

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