Musical producer

Iconic producer Chad Hugo lets his music do the talking


Chad Hugo of The Neptunes music production team poses for a portrait in New York City on May 22, 2022. Hugo and Pharrell Williams will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. (AP Photo/Gary G. Hamilton)


Chad Hugo is a man of very few words. But helping to create some of the greatest songs of the early 2000s, his music may have spoken louder than he ever could.

“It’s always rewarding to see people enjoy music when it’s played out loud and you cultivate moments or opportunities for moments to share,” the two-time Grammy winner said. “When music plays, it is a sound. And if we can share that understanding with what we hear, then hopefully we can understand each other’s soul and our intentions in this world.

Legendary producer duo The Neptunes of Hugo and Pharrell Williams will be officially inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday. The hitmakers are part of the pandemic-delayed class of 2020 that includes other icons like The Isley Brothers, Annie Lennox and Mariah Carey.

A songwriter becomes eligible for selection 20 years after a song’s first commercial release and must have a notable catalog. According to the Hall, of the tens of thousands of songwriters from that era, only about 400 were inducted into this prestigious group which boasts names like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jay-Z , Marvin Gaye, Burt Bacharach, Bruce Springsteen and Curtis Mayfield. Lil Nas X will receive a special award.

“I never thought I (would) be considered a songwriter. You know, sometimes you just have to turn up the reverb,” the 48-year-old joked. of creating records and playing an instrumental role in the creation of music.”

Like his personality, the genius producer underestimates his musical impact. The production pair’s futuristic sound has become so recognizable that it has earned the nickname “The Neptunes Sound”. Their sonic creations dominated radio at the turn of the millennium with mega hits like Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U”, Nelly’s “Hot in Herre”, Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot”, “Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani. and “Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake. They also designed the Jay-Z-Pharrell collaborations “Excuse Me Miss” and “Frontin'”, as well as the architects of The Clipse’s iconic “Grindin'” beat.

Hugo, whose parents immigrated from the Philippines, met Pharrell at band camp as young students, forming a close friendship through music. The Virginia Beach natives eventually caught the eye of R&B legend and New Jack Swing innovator Teddy Riley, who signed them as a band before turning into a production team. They would also eventually form the popular rock band NERD with high school friend Shay Haley.

Pharrell’s flamboyant, media-savvy ying to yang, it’s easy for the soft-spoken producer to be overlooked. But when asked if the public properly recognizes his contributions, Hugo deflects the praise.

“I learned a lot from Pharrell and his music. He would bring records, and we would go through the records and get inspiration from the records,” said Hugo, who along with Pharrell won the Grammy Award for Non-Classical Producer of the year 2003. But when pushed if he specifically gets the credit he deserves, he says that’s not what he creates for. “It’s about the records and the experience when people hear the records.”

Although they don’t collaborate as frequently, the Neptunes have maintained a foothold in the current era by working with some of today’s stars such as Rosalia, Summer Walker, Snoh ​​Alegra, Brent Faiyaz and the late Pop Smoke. Independently, Hugo has been in the studio with MIA, rising artist The BLSSM, and he’s working with fellow Filipino American Jo Koy on the soundtrack for the comic’s upcoming “Easter Sunday” special.

Hugo is also currently diving into the jazz he grew up playing. He says he wants to be a constant music learner – the same kind of attitude that led him to one of songwriting’s most exclusive clubs.

“It’s just awesome that we’ve been able to create these records and have the DJs take notice and play the songs,” Hugo said. “I’m really grateful that we’re able to move people and be a part of people’s lives and be an inspiration to the next generation or other musicians at the same time.” ___

Follow Associated Press entertainment reporter Gary Gerard Hamilton with his handle @GaryGHamilton on social media.