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Chad Hugo - Berklee College of Music Commencement Address 2021

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Chad Hugo of the Neptunes delivers his commencement speech for the 2021 Berklee College of Music virtual graduation ceremony. Hugo received an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.

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Chad Hugo
Two-time Grammy-winning multiplatinum producer Chad Hugo quietly stands out as a proficient multi-instrumentalist whose arsenal includes piano, guitar, and saxophone. Highsnobiety pegged him as “one of the more influential producers from the past few decades,” while Grammy.com described his music as “magical.” As one half of the Neptunes, with childhood friend Pharrell Williams, Hugo has impacted multiple eras of popular music. After producing “Use Your Heart'' for SWV, the group launched one of the most unprecedented and unparalleled runs in music history. Simultaneously, Hugo launched the influential performance group N.E.R.D. with Williams and Shae Haley during one of the most lauded periods for the Neptunes’s music. His production defined the band’s genre-busting sound on the gold-certified In Search of…, The Neptunes Present…Clones, and Fly or Die, in addition to Seeing Sounds, Nothing, and No_One Ever Really Dies, which included the double-platinum single “Lemon'' featuring Rihanna. Along the way, Hugo also established himself as a sought-after solo producer. In addition to working on tracks for Yuna, the Internet, E-40, and Mos Def, he produced “Baby Girl” for Bryce Vine in 2020. Expanding his influence, the cloud-based music creation and collaboration platform Splice sought Hugo out to release his first-ever sound pack, consisting of 150 classic sounds.

The Neptunes
Formed by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, the Neptunes imparted their singular spirit upon some of the most seminal albums and songs of this century, including hits by Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé, Shakira, Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Gwen Stefani, in addition to soundtrack contributions for billion-dollar blockbuster franchises, such as Bad Boys, Fast & Furious, and Austin Powers, among others. The Grammy-winning collective has notched 24 top 10 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, received the number one spot on Billboard’s “Top Producers of the Decade” list, and earned a place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2020. Williams and Hugo initially met in summer camp in Virginia Beach, Virginia, bonding over marching band and all things music. New Jack Swing icon Teddy Riley caught wind of the duo, signed them, and brought them into his studio barely out of high school. Cutting their teeth, they contributed to records by Blackstreet, SWV, and Total. In 1998, the pair claimed a place on the charts for the first time with N.O.R.E.’s “Superthug (What What).” They went on to produce Kaleidoscope for Kelis as their first full album. The Neptunes set the globe on fire with Britney Spears’s smash hit “I’m a Slave 4 U.” The song hit no. 1 around the world and dramatically amplified their influence as a game-changing force. In 2003, the group released the gold-selling compilation The Neptunes Present…Clones, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard 200. The year 2004 represented a watershed moment for the Neptunes. They created seven of the 13 tracks on Justin Timberlake’s album Justified, receiving a Grammy Award in the category of Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. Joined by childhood friend Shae Haley, the Neptunes also helmed production for all five N.E.R.D albums to date. The year 2020 marked a new era for the duo. Collaborating in the studio with Rihanna, Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Beck, SZA, Lil Uzi Vert, and more, the “Neptunes sound” continues to forever transform the careers of A-list superstars and the culture at large.
chad hugo, neptunes, honorary doctorate
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