The Face Behind NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES
Written by Neah Gray
If you haven't already, it's strongly recommended that you listen to some of the tracks off of N.E.R.D's fifth studio album, NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES. Released on December 15th, the rock band trio consisting of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley came back with nothing short of a well produced album. However, the most exciting aspect of NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES that we can't get over, is the bold and eye catching artwork for both the album and singles.
NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES is their first self-titled album, and stands for the full name of the band N.E.R.D. "Lemon", featuring Rihanna and produced by Pharrell Williams was the first single released for the album on November 1st 2017. The song was a hit as soon as it was released and marked N.E.R.D's first ever Billboard Hot 100 chart position with a peak ranking of No. 65. After a seven year hiatus, the group began advertising in October 2017 and many fans speculated the newest project from the American hip-hop and rock band. This fifth studio album embodies all the spark and funk the group had back in the early 2000s. With bright yellow cover art and a grungy yet simple concept, this reintroduction of the band caught the attention of old and new fans. Not to mention, who doesn't like a feature from the fashion and RnB icon, Rihanna?
NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES features other RnB and hip-hop favorites such as Andre 3000, Gucci Mane, Wale, M.I.A. and Ed Sheeran. The last two singles of the album were "1000" featuring Future and "Don't Don't Do It" featuring Kendrick Lamar released on November 29th and December 13th 2017. N.E.R.D kept the same template of the taped over letters and song titles in the right bottom corner. The cover art for all the singles has stayed consistent, bright and bold.
On November 22nd 2017, N.E.R.D released the final cover art and tracklist for NO_ONE EVER REALLY DIES. The cover art features a woman with aluminum foil grills with her tongue sticking out. Many people wondered who was the face behind the cover art, with some speculating that the tongue belonged to Miley Cyrus.Believe it or not, the tongue isn't Miley Cyrus, or someone you'd normally guess. The album cover art also came about naturally, and speaks to a population N.E.R.D connects with well.
Kit Keenan, a New York City native and freshman at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, worked on a team with four other artists to complete this project. When it came to the shoot, her face and the grills were both impromptu ideas.
Kit's friend and photographer of the cover art, Erik Ian asked her to stop by while shooting for the album. "He was shooting a bunch of L.A. kids for it and was like stop by for the shoot", Keenan stated. "The idea for the shoot was supposed to be really centered around youth culture, and the foil is kind of like f'ed up grillz. They ended up liking the photos he did of me so they went with those;" Kit noted.
After the album released, Keenan also posted this photo of her tongue sticking out while holding the album near her face:
Erik Ian, Pres Rodriguez, Todd Tourso and another artist with the Instagram handle @phisqueezy, all worked on this project for N.E.R.D. Keenan expressed gratitude for the shoot, stating "I love how the photos came out. Erik is a really talented photographer and I'm happy I got to help him."
Pres Rodriguez, a freelance art director in New York and Miami, also enjoyed working on the project and stated this while sharing the cover art on Instagram:
It's clear that the producers, the band, the featured artists, and the creatives behind the artwork all put in time and dedication to the execution of this album. Although it's been seven years, N.E.R.D reminds us that RnB, funk, rock and hip-hop can never go out of style. Hopefully, we'll see more from the band in 2018 and the years following.