Pharrell Williams Talks Art, Creativity, Design and New Book

Last fall, performer, producer and designer Pharrell Williams penned Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been, where he details his creative pursuits, including clothing lines, jewelry, and accessories designs for Louis Vuitton, furniture and other product design, limited-edition toys, graphic designs, skate graphics, and collaborations with Moncler, Marc Jacobs, the artist KAWS, and with architects Zaha Hadid and Masamichi Katayama/Wonderwall.

During an appearance at Design Miami in December 2012, he tells interviewer Craig Robins, “It’s time for people to be enlightened and happy.” It's his inspiration for writing the book. “I treat all projects like I do music. You have a collection of sounds. Design is like a Lego system. You color code and build it. I find that making a chair is no different than making a song: the hook is like the seat, verses are like the legs, and the screws are like the chord structure.”

The biggest lesson he's learned: "When it comes to art, design and fashion, all great things are designed from a functional viewpoint first."




The View: 'The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement'

The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement, written by award-winning historian Taylor Branch, chronicles 18 climacteric events in the struggle to banish racial discrimination in the U.S. during the 1960s. It highlights an early speech by Martin Luther King Jr., the 1963 marches in Birmingham,
and events that have been overlooked in most history books. A history book for a general audiences, it's also a teaching tool for the digital age.

Branch is the bestselling author of the trilogy: Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65; At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968; and The Clinton Tapes.

The King years serves as a reintroduction and condensed version of the trilogy.

Branch's portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. takes readers down the paths of the marches in King's his compeers' shoes. We learn, virtually, what it's like to be a leader. There's the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. and the 1960 sit-in movement, and, in 1961, the Freedom Riders seized national attention.

The enhanced ebook gives readers access to audio and video illustrations of passages in the text, including a telephone conversation between King and then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Branch received a Pulitzer Price in 1989 and the "genius grant, " a MacArthur Fellowship, in 1991.


There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra

Chinua Achebe has provided us with a passionate personal account of the Biafra conflict. It is a very explosive personal account of the most tragic phase in Nigerian history: the Civil War of 1967 to 1970.

Achebe relates his own account of his time growing up under British-controlled Nigeria, to the British leaving and, essentially, chaos slowly taking hold. The new government, says Achebe, started to discriminate heavily against the Igbo people, of which Achebe is a part of. As a result, they attempted to split off from Nigeria and formed their own short-lived country Biafra. A profoundly important document from one of the world’s greatest writers.


Natasha Trethewey explores father-daughter racial divide in "Thrall"

Natasha Trethewey, English and creative writing professor at Atlanta's Emory University, is the 19th poet to be picked for the U.S poet laureate post. Trethewey is the first African-American since 1993 to win the title.

Natasha Trethewey, the newest U.S. poet laureate, uses Casta paintings and ekphrastic poetry to examine what it means to be mixed race, to be wanted and forgotten, accepted and disowned, in her forthcoming collection, Thrall. Throughout this slim volume she also reflects on the relationship with her poet father, who now lives in Canada. The best poem in the collection might be her "Elegy" to their tangled relationship. In her series of moving poems about casta paintings, Ms. Trethewey reveals her ability to not only compel the reader to contemplate the lives of the subjects of the paintings, but also to bring the subjects of the paintings to life as in her poem


Zadie Smith: White Teeth

White Teeth is a family saga set in London and moving back and forth in time between the end of the Second World War and the 1990’s. The story focuses on three families: the Bangladeshi Iqbals, the Anglo-Caribbean Joneses, and the English Chalfens. Samad Iqbal moves to England after the war, and decides to look up the only person he knows in the whole of the British Isles, his old army friend Archie Jones.

White Teeth is not just funny; it’s also rich, layered, and dead serious even as it makes you burst laughing out loud. Plus it’s full of literary allusions, which are here not for the sake of making the author appear clever.


New Read: One Day It'll Make Sense

You don't have to like hip-hop, you just have to appreciate openness and honesty.That openness allows new ideas to take root in his soul, and through the lens of those new values he his open to reexamining his life and seeing a better version of himself.

One Day It'll Make Sense is in a very intriguing format. Each chapter begins with a letter from Common addressed to an important person in his life from his daughter to his close friend and collaborator Kanye West, from his former love Erykah Badu to you, the reader. Through it all, Common emerges as a man in full. Common’s story is the prime example of no matter what you’ve gone through, one day it’ll all make sense.

So revealing and so honest, reading Common's memoir really created such a nuanced and real portrait of him as a person. He openly talks about his growth not just as an artist, but as a man and is real about his struggles in his relationships, fatherhood and career. You finish the book having so much more respect for him. I applaud him for laying it all out there in that way. I highly recommend this book to young men.


Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been

Pharrell Williams is releasing a coffee table style book which will feature conversations between himself and friends such as Anna Wintour, Nigo, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Hans Zimmer and Chad & Shae.

The book can be pre-ordered at Rizzoli with the release set for October 16. Regular editions of the book will cost $55, but there will also be a limited edition run that will cost about $250. We’re not sure what this version will include yet.


Bittersweet by Sheila Banks

When a deeper hued playmate declares, “My mamma says you ain't nothin' but a whole lotta yellow gon' to waste,” Ellie gets a taste of racism on her side of the fence. But the often-tortured, uneducated young girl refuses to let the taunt dampen her spirit. Instead her passion and drive for self-realization propel her from a childhood rape in swampy LeBeau, Louisiana to a spurious first marriage in the Indian/Creole/Black dust bowl of Oklahoma and a successful career as a fashion designer, business owner, and real estate entrepreneur in Los Angeles.

Decades later life comes full circle when her daughter dates a young white man whose father had been one of those who raped Ellie and Ellie is brutalized by her own people at the ignition of the Watts Riots.

This debut novel is one of coming of age, race, womanhood, and the determination of a woman to succeed in early-20th-century America despite the country's racial prescriptions and gender presumptions. Through it all, Ellie's relationships with her loved ones force her to deal with the trauma of her childhood and the difficulties of letting go and to recognize the values of forgiveness, understanding, love, and healing.


A Moment With Reverend Dieuner Joseph

 

Reverend is just one of many titles Dieuner Joseph wears. Joseph is the founder of Imani Temple Baptist Church and CEO of the Holistic Transformation Center. He is the author of the critically acclaimed books "Restoring Honor to an Honorable Vocation" and his new book "Created to Live a Balanced Life: 8 Steps to Holistic Tranformation". Hobnob Drive catches up with Reverend Dieuner Joseph to discuss his book and how to integrate balance in our daily lives.

 

What is the immediate impact of this book?
More people are becoming aware of the need to synchronize their spirit, mind and body for abundant living.

What did you find that made you say I must do this?

I found too many broken marriages, dysfunctional families and people battling depression.

What voice do you hear as you turn the pages of such wonderful spiritual journey?

I hear the voice of God saying “feed my sheep”; and I hear the voices of the many men I visit in prison weekly, saying help others so they won’t end up like us.

 What about LA makes it inspiring?
The diversity of people and ideas and its drive to be on the cutting edge of cultural relevance.

There is a magic of balance spiritual lift found in this book, why?
Because we are ultimately spiritual beings having a physical experience. Our spirituality defines us and empowers us to live with purpose; else we can quickly descent into the abyss of meaninglessness.

What are the reasons balance can change things?
Balance creates awareness of self, brings about confidence and inner calm. It makes one more at ease with self so that we can enjoy the experiences of life.

How did you feel when you finished the book?
I felt relieved and sad at the same time. I was relieved because my 6 years journey with the material was over, but I was also sad because I realized the number of people that are living dysfunctional lives and do not know where to get help.

What did you find out while writing this book that changed your life? 

Success in one or two areas of life does not necessarily mean happiness or abundance. I learned that without balance between spirit, mind, and body, I cannot experience true happiness and abundance.


A Moment With Karen Hudson

Karen Hudson is the granddaughter of famed architect Paul R. Williams and director of his archives. She has been chronicling the African-American experience in Los Angeles through her writings and photographs. Hudson documents a veritable gold-mine of history within the annals of her grandfather's achievements. Hobnob Drive catches up with Karen Hudson to discuss her grandfather's legacy and her own writing.

What was it like to know that you were a part of greatness?
Don't know that I ever grew up thinking we were part of "greatness," he was simply, and most importantly, our grandfather.

What is the immediate impact of this book?
A renewed interest in the life and work of Paul Williams.

What did you find that made you say I must do this soon? With the first book (1993), it was an urgency to share his story before the buildings were lost and he was forgotten, and the feeling of "if I don't do it, who will?" This time around it was more a matter of honoring his residential legacy, but once again I felt, "if not me, who?"

When you visit these great treasures how do you feel?
Without a doubt, each and every time I enter a Paul Williams home, or commercial building, I feel the understated elegance that so embodied the spirit of his designs. I particularly chose the cover image because I wanted people to look at it and say, "a black man did this in 1926!"

What voice do you hear as you turn the pages of such wonderful creative genius?
A gentle voice, constantly reminding me of the challenges he faced, and overcame, with such grace. There is no way to think you are having a "bad day" when you look at all he accomplished against all odds.

What about La make the a fairy tale?
LA was a land of open fields and the promise of greater things in the west--so he didn't have to tear down buildings to create his masterpieces. He was born in LA in 1894, grew up in an integrated neighborhood, and learned to respect the talents and gifts of everyone.

There is a magic of LA that can be seen in these photos why?
Because LA is magical, and he brought that to life.

What is the most special thing anyone has said about you new book?
"This is such an incredible gift you've given to your grandfather, I want to buy 10 books and send them as gifts to inspire young people." My response is always the same--while in the beginning I naively believed this was my gift to my grandparents, it has always been no less than his gift to me."

What would your grand father be doing now?
If he were alive and well, he'd be creating masterpieces the world over.

Young creative types should take away what when they read and see this body of work?
To use your imagination for creative problem solving--just as my grandfather learned to draw upside down to combat racial restrictions of his day.

How did you feel once you finished the book?
Relieved!

Why did stars identify with your grand father?
I think there was a mutual admiration and respect for creative brilliance.

What did you find out while writing this book that changed your life?
That everyone, every family, has a story to tell, and I'd like to help tell them.

What did you find out about your grandfather that you did not know?
It wasn't news to me, after having done two other books on him, but I continue to be amazed by his unparalleled attention to detail.

Who will you introduce us to when we read this book?
Paul Revere Williams, a gentle man with a dream.

How would you describe his creative process?
Not a clue, but he never stopped thinking, creating. He was constantly making notes, scribbling designs, and meeting with clients to understand their needs and desires. Unlike a Frank Lloyd Wright who designed something brilliant and you either bought into it or not--PRW believed that his worth as an architect was determined by his ability to listen to his client and make them happy.