Black Eyed Peas are keeping it real, real. Real how they see it. With hip hop music influenced by soul, jazz and Latin rhythms. With a live band. With pumpin’ live shows that inspire Black Eyed Peas to bust into acrobatic movements and that drive audiences to a frenzy.
“Just cuz we dress the way we do and perform with a band doesn’t mean we’re not hip hop”, begins Will.I.Am, Black Eyed Peas’ co-founder and lead rapper. “That’s who we are and we’re not about fronting. This isn’t about an image; this is about the music, whether it fits in the current scene or not.”
Behind (as in beyond) the fronting, behind (as in to the rear of in) the surface skin, behind (as in advocating) the music are three MC’s: main mic man Will.I.Am, acrobatic Apl.de.Ap (apple-d-ap) and hypnotizing Taboo. And four-piece band plus one stunning back-up singer.
And it’s all laid out on Behind the Front, Black Eyed Peas’ Interscope Records debut produced by Will.I.Am.; the 16 song collection turns positive words and phrase into refreshingly novel styles. Styles that set them apart from their peers and leaves them accessible to fans of music of all genres. “We made songs that could be understood by the normal listener where you don’t have to be a part of the scene to understand what we’re talking about,” asserts Taboo. Continues Apl : I know the hip hop world will be feelin’ the Peas and so will fans of all types of music. I think that’s not only because of the live sound, but because our music crosses musical boundaries as well as cultural boundaries.”
We interview Apl.de.Ap!
HIP ONLINE: Life has to be good.
APL.DE.AP: It’s good. We’ve been nonstop touring and doing stuff on the side.
Has it been weird to be the go to group that everyone wants to see?
For me personally, I was adopted from the Philippines and my main goal was to help out my family and I never expected to be this big. But at the same time we’ve put in a lot of hard work and we played everywhere when we started and put everything into it.
Hip-hop fans have known about Black Eyed Peas for a long time—has it been an odd transition to see more and more people jump on the bandwagon?
It’s a little overwhelming, but I guess we like to do shows and that was one of our weapons and that caused awareness to people.
BLACK EYED PEAS
Has your approach to music stayed the same?
Always the same. Integrity. We’ve always taken different kinds of music and incorporated that with hip-hop.
It has to be weird that some fans don’t realize you’ve been around for a long time.
Yeah, people think these are our first two albums and they were actually our third and fourth albums.
Did it catch you off guard because they don’t know what you are about?
I can see that when we play on stage and do an old song—they are like “what is this?” You can see it in their faces. You’ll see spurts of people that know the old songs and are like “yeah!”
Is it still as exciting to perform now as it had been early on?
Yeah, it actually got more exciting because we got more onstage and we come up out of the ground. And we have a live band and every night it’s never the same. We can improvise too and that keeps it fresh for us.
The live band is awesome. It doesn’t seem to be a dominating thing in hip-hop.
There are some artists that are good at performing off turntables—but we like to hear our stuff live. That’s what makes us the Black Eyed Peas.
What are your thoughts on hip-hop today going towards a more violent style—especially since BEP is the complete opposite.
Hip-hop has always been the same. Back in the day you had NWA and A Tribe Called Quest and those different types of hip-hop and that is how it is today. Today you have Black Eyed Peas and 50 Cent.
Back when there was NWA, but you also had Public Enemy who was political. It seems hip-hop isn’t as diverse today.
We got into hip-hop when it was a different time and music style and that is what we kept in our style. We love the B-boy style and keeping that alive.
What do you listen to?
Old school and new stuff from Coldplay to Bob Marley to Stevie Wonder.
What has changed about BEP—I ask because with the last two albums you’ve had some huge hits.
Well the first two albums were a little more experimental and stuff. And we have grown as writers and producers. And we have been able to capture what we really like. We got to capture what is going on in the world and our lives. People can relate to that better because they know what we are feeling and what we are all about. That’s done a lot for us.
BLACK EYED PEAS
Do you write a lot of stuff?
We all write our own stuff.
Do you write together?
We always write together in one room. We jump around and sometimes we even try to see the stage when we are writing. We are traveling so much that we’ll do some music making on the plane and on a bus with a studio.
Is it easier to improvise onstage because you’ve been doing it for so long?
We are all different. Will likes to put his lyrics down right there and I like to sit down and write on paper and Taboo is the same. Will just likes to jump around.
You just came back from Asia right?
Yeah, we got to play in the Philippines—where I’m from. It was great.
It had to be amazing?
Hell yeah! The President gave me a medal. There are only three people who have been given medals. They gave BEP a special date which is July 24th. It’s crazy.
+ Charlie Craine