As the duo took on more work, Williams' voice became increasingly familiar. He was now more likely to provide the chorus and the background vocals of the same song, in addition to appearing in the video. (Hear/see Jay-Z's "Excuse Me Miss" and Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful" for two examples.) It wasn't until the summer of 2003 that he truly stepped out on his own. He released his first solo single, "Frontin'." Produced with Hugo and featuring a guest verse from Jay-Z, the song built anticipation for The Neptunes Present... Clones, a compilation of all-new tracks from artists produced by the duo. "Frontin'" was a ubiquitous summer hit and kept Williams' momentum running up to the release of Hugo and Williams' second funk/rock-oriented N.E.R.D. album, released in March 2004. Williams' first solo album, In My Mind, survived a number of delays and was finally issued in July 2006. The uneven set, produced by Williams alone, debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 chart.
Although Williams didn't release another solo album for eight years, his name, as well as that of the Neptunes, continued to carry much weight. The remainder of the 2000s was filled with commercially successful collaborations with the likes of Clipse, Britney Spears, Jay-Z, Solange, and Madonna. There was a handful of Grammy nominations, as well as a surprising 2007 win for Ludacris' "Money Maker" in the Best Rap Song category. N.E.R.D., who released their third album, Seeing Sounds, in 2008, remained an an occasional diversion.
The following decade began with a steady stream of activity. Williams was responsible for much of the music for the animated comedy Despicable Me. Along with outside production and songwriting work, Williams and Hugo put together Nothing, the fourth N.E.R.D. album. During 2011 and 2012, Williams produced most of Gloria Estefan's Miss Little Havana, dozens of cuts for R&B, rap, and pop artists, and tracks for two of the most praised albums of the early 2010s: Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and Frank Ocean's Channel Orange. Williams won a Grammy for his role in the latter. The roll continued through 2013. "Blurred Lines," a Hot 100 chart-topper from Robin Thicke, featured Williams as producer, co-songwriter, and featured artist. He co-wrote and fronted "Get Lucky" and "Lose Yourself to Dance," two songs from Daft Punk's number one Billboard 200 album Random Access Memories. The soundtrack for Despicable Me 2 contained several Williams songs, led by "Happy," for which he conceived a 24-hour music video. When the nominees for the 2014 Grammy Awards were announced, Williams' name appeared in seven categories. "Get Lucky" won Record of the Year, Random Access Memories won Album of the Year, and, most notably, Williams won the award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. Williams signed to Columbia, home of Daft Punk, and released his second album, G I R L, in March 2014. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi