In just over four minutes, the video for “Frontin,’” Pharrell’s 2003 single, tours us through a house party in Miami. Lenny Kravitz mingles with Japanese streetwear designer Nigo. Lanisha Cole utters the secret phrase—“Neptunes Presents the Clones”—to enter the party, and immediately catches Pharrell’s eye. Jay-Z, in a banana-yellow shirt, appears momentarily, mostly through the lens of a digital camera. Always lingering in the background is a halfpipe, welcoming skaters and red Solo cups in equal measure. For a certain kind of young man, it was revolutionary.
Rhude designer Rhuigi Villaseñor was one of those guys. He was almost 10 at the time, and remembers instantly grabbing onto every reference in the clip. “It was a preview of [Pharrell’s brand] Billionaire Boys Club], and I remember I was like, ‘What is that T-shirt? I need that, I need the Icecreams,’” Villaseñor says. Something funny happened after that, he says. Rappers kept starting fashion lines. Nigo began collaborating widely stateside. Skateboarding exploded in relevance. The vision of a hip hop-driven, streetwear-inflected lifestyle presented by “Frontin’” in 2003 was basically the blueprint for everything that became cool in the 18 years since.
“‘Frontin’,” Villaseñor declares, “is probably the most important music video for our culture.”
The video’s firsts were numerous. “Frontin’” introduced the world to Pharrell’s BBC brand, and helped put Lauren London and Cole on the map. It was one of the first times Hov talked publicly about his relationship with Beyoncé, and made it cool to put a Japanese streetwear designer on the party guest list. The way Villaseñor tells it, Pharrell’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak perpetual calendar was formative in the watch world, too. “Back then, we’re living through it. You don’t realize,” says Jimmy Gorecki, a former member of Pharrell’s Icecream skate team and now the founder of the brand JSP, tells me. “20 years later it’s like, ‘Wow, they didn’t have to wear Orchard Street, they didn’t have to put in a mini ramp,’ But because they did we’re looking back back on how important those moments were now.”