YouTube did not exist in 2003. No Twitter, no Tumblr, no Facebook, no ‘gram. Maybe three or four OK blogs. Our modern social media ecosystem was just primordial ooze, MySpace Tom still a knuckle-walker. Shit was dark! Yet some cavemen knew of fire. And buried on a bonus DVD packaged with The Neptunes’ Clones compilation was a music video for Fam-Lay’s “Rock N Roll.”
If The Neptunes were your Beatles—and in the early aughts you’re goddamn right they were!—Fam-Lay was their Billy Preston, a dependable sideman providing a welcome and unpredictable dose of stank amidst all the platinum Justin and Britney records. Smack in the middle of a 12-month run that saw Pharrell and Chad rack up enough back-to-back-to-back hits to win a Producer of the Year Grammy, “Rock N Roll” had all the makings of another Star Trak star-is-born moment. After an eponymous, scene-stealing freestyle on Clipse’s Lord Willing a year earlier, this was Fam-Lay’s coming out party: four minutes of dookie rope ’80s flows over a grimy, dinosaurs-banging-on-the-lunch table beat from two producers at their creative peak. And the video! A Virginia Beach tall-tee epic that seasoned its Rap City tropes with a dash of side-eye that included meta title cards (“the porch,” “the park girl dance,” “the crew on the run”) and Pharrell in BAPE, munching on a bowl of Fruit Loops outside the projects, singing come get serrrrrrvvvvved.