pharrell on racial and gender bias: women have it "twice as hard"

'There's a lot of gender bias, and there's a lot of racial bias. It's undeniable.'

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Dec 13 2016, 3:09pm

In wide-ranging interview on the Breakfast Club this morning, Pharrell spoke on sexism and racism in the music industry and beyond. The artist was promoting his latest film Hidden Figures, which tells the story of three black women working at NASA in 1960s, whose work sent John Glenn into space. "A lot of female contribution in science — and across the board — has been largely ignored until now," Pharrell said. 

He explains that he was drawn to the project because it was about female triumph at a time when "women had it twice as hard." Even today, he continues, "there's a lot of gender bias, and there's a lot of racial bias. It's undeniable."

Moving to the music industry, Pharrell said "they don't have to call you the N-word to be racist. It's a much deeper conversation." He cited the issues around artist's master recordings as evidence of the ongoing power-games in the industry. "We work in a business where it is OK to own other people's masters. That's insane," the artist said. "That's like you owning my ID and telling me when I can and can't cross the street, and when I can eat, and when I should pay my taxes. That's the business we're in in the music industry. That will soon change, by the way." 

"Everybody should own their masters," he concludes. "If major labels wanna do deals with artists to partner with them, great, partner with me — but don't own me." Skip through to the seven minute mark to hear Pharrell discuss racism in the music industry, the effect of gender bias in the 2016 presidential election, and Hidden Figures.

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Text Isabelle Hellyer