Pharrell Williams possesses a very distinct skill: the ability to create hit songs that sneak their way into your brain and stay there for a long time, whether you like it or not. The omnipresent "Happy" was 2014's best-selling song and the prolific musician wrote and produced Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," which in 2013 spent 12 straight weeks at No. 1. In all, Williams's music career has earned him 10 Grammys.
But Williams has also managed to parlay his songwriting prowess into a successful business empire. His companies and alliances, which range from clothing to media to jewelry, have put the artist's estimated worth at more than $100 million.
"Music will always be my first love," Williams has said. "But the one thing I've learned is that this life is a movie and I am a co-creator." Williams launched his signature clothing brands, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream, in 2005. The high-end streetwear companies have combined for more than $25 million in annual sales, according to Women's Wear Daily. In 2013, he launched a sister brand, Billionaire Girls Club. The labels have brick and mortar storefronts in New York City, London, and Tokyo.
But making clothes isn't cool unless you're saving the world too. As creative director at Bionic Yarn, a startup that converts recycled materials into clothing, Williams in 2014 helped launch a line of jeans made from -- wait for it -- plastic recovered from the ocean. That eventually led to him becoming co-owner of G-Star Raw, the Dutch denim maker. "On top of my business," he proclaimed last year in an Instagram post announcing the deal.
In addition to having his own companies, Williams has partnered with Adidas to launch a sneaker line and created a collection of T-shirts for Japanese clothing company Uniqlo. He has also designed sunglasses and jewelry for Moncler and Louis Vuitton. And there you were, judging his fashion sense by his oversize "Smokey the Bear" hat.
"All of this is school for me," Williams has said about his collaborations with professionals outside of the music world. "I didn't go to college. This is my college."
And a lucrative one at that.
In 2012, the musician-entrepreneur founded I Am Other, which encompasses his clothing brands and also includes its own media arm. On its YouTube channel, the company produces serialized shows geared toward, in Williams's words, "thinkers, innovators, and outcasts" -- though it's up for debate how much of an outcast one can be while collecting Grammys. The company, which also serves as a record label, released Williams's second studio album, Girl, in 2014.
Williams's first label, Star Trak, dates back to 2001, when he launched it along with childhood friend Chad Hugo. Together, the duo -- known professionally as The Neptunes -- has produced hits including Britney Spears's "I'm a Slave 4 U," Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot," and Nelly's "Hot in Herre."
In December, Williams announced yet another partnership with a high-profile company: He's the first-ever creative director for American Express's Platinum Card. In this role, he'll help create rewards and benefits for cardholders and might lend his expertise toward the card's physical design.
Somehow, Williams finds time to balance all this with his own music. So what keeps him going? "Someone asked me this a while ago, what inspires me," he told Vulture in 2013, "and I always say 'that which is missing.' Doesn't mean it's going to be the greatest thing in the world, just means it's going to feel different. That's what I'm really into."
Before Pharrell came around, apparently, there was a whole lot missing.