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Pharrell Williams will co-own Roli's modular instrument business

He's our kind of N.E.R.D., apparently.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
October 25, 2017
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There's no question that Pharrell Williams has had at least some fondness for technology (his Daft Punk collabs and gold-tinged smartphones were big clues), but now he's taking that appreciation to Will.I.Am levels. Roli has revealed that Pharrell is not only becoming its Chief Creative Officer, but will invest in and take co-ownership of the modular instrument startup. He'll have a vested interest in Roli's success, in other words. The company hasn't outlined the terms of the deal, but the superstar will help develop "revolutionary" digital instruments that are accessible and "iconic."

The first output from the team-up is a Pharrell sound pack for Roli's Noise app that lets you build tunes using the instruments and vocals of "Happy." It's not exactly a brand new piece of hardware, but it's a start.

It's easy to be a bit skeptical about the move: just ask BlackBerry how Alicia Keys' Creative Director role panned out. However, it sounds like Pharrell will be more than a celebrity figurehead. While you probably won't see him tinkering with prototypes in the engineering lab, he's clearly interested in shaping Roli and its products. The larger question is whether or not his involvement will have a visible effect -- you'll want to keep an eye out for new controls and other thoughtful touches that you'd expect from a veteran artist.

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