N.E.R.D returned Wednesday with their first new track since 2015 — and the song, which premiered on Beats 1, prominently features Rihanna. The singer also appears in the cut’s video, which was directed by longtime Beyoncé creative director Todd Tourso — who shaped the visual components of Beyoncé and Lemonade — and Scott Cudmore.
Though N.E.R.D — the project of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley — released four albums from 2002 to 2010, the group has stayed largely quiet in recent years. They most recently released three songs for The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water in January 2015. In September 2015, Williams assured fans that “of course” N.E.R.D would eventually release another album. Speculation about new N.E.R.D material ramped up when posters referencing the group’s name appeared earlier this week.
N.E.R.D’s extended absence owes partly to Williams’ massive individual success: The singer and producer has been involved in recent smashes including Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” and his own “Happy.”
Surprisingly, “Lemon” marks Pharrell’s first collaboration with Rihanna as a solo artist, N.E.R.D member, or through his production duo the Neptunes. Comprised of Williams and Hugo, the Neptunes produced some of the defining singles of the ’00s, such as Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U,” Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl,” and Kelis’ “Milkshake.”
Though Rihanna released her most recent album, ANTI, in early 2016, she’s remained a chart presence in 2017. Singles by Kendrick Lamar and Future that featured her peaked at Nos. 14 and 37 on the Hot 100, respectively, while her appearance on DJ Khaled’s smash-hit “Wild Thoughts” propelled the song to No. 2.
Watch the video for “Lemon” above.