since they were a fledgling group in the environs of Los Angeles,
The Black Eyed Peas have flaunted a passionate, energetic hip-hop
spirit people have always been drawn to. They've earned fans worldwide
with their inventive approach to hip-hop music, inspiring people
with loose rhymes, and a positive spirit and funkafied vibe. On
Elephunk, the group's third album, that spirit seems to course
through their beings even more than ever.
Eyed Peas will.i.am, apl.de.ap, Taboo and newcomer Fergie
named the album Elephunk to conjure up a big, deep funk
sound. Produced in its entirety by will.i.am and apl, the album
boasts a mix of live instruments and traditional hip-hop samples
and beats. It also mixes the group's breathless verbal acrobatics
with a very conscious view of the world.
has always been firmly entrenched in hip-hop but also with an
eye to other musical forms. Elephunk, more than previous albums,
seems to transcend the simple genre categorization, something
will.i.am admits was intentional, both lyrically and musically.
"This is a hip-hop record but we didn't go into this with
hip-hop on our mind," says will.i.am. "We were just
thinking of good songs, good music. We didn't want to say anything
typical, like 'My style is this, and my rhymes are like that.'
A couple might have slipped in but we were really tired of saying
things like that."
recorded in three different spurts over the last two years, beginning
in 2001. "We would record about eight songs each time,"
remembers will.i.am. "Then each time we went back, I felt
I'd changed and grown as a producer. So we'd do eight more songs,
and those eight would be better than the previous eight. It kept
going until we were done."
rhymes are clever and irreverent but it's his work as a producer
on Elephunk that he's most proud of. Songs like "Where Is
The Love," with Justin Timberlake, the quickstepping fast-rap
of "Hands Up," and the Louis Armstrong growl of "Smells
Like Funk," demonstrate not just a sophisticated ear for
new sounds but a head for interesting arrangements and tight songwriting.
will.i.am's talent lies in his ability to mold live instruments,
samples and drum machines into a uniform sound. He's always taken
a musically broad perspective and on this album, it shows more
as a producer has definitely grown," he says. "I think
my understanding of music has grown, I've discovered new ways
of manifesting my thoughts into reality, and I know my equipment
welcomes a new member into the BEP fold Los Angeles native
Fergie. The singer met will.i.am at BEP shows around town and
was invited to join in on a recording session. In the studio,
one song turned to three turned to five turned to an invitation
to join the group. Says Fergie about her experience, "This
group is just totally open to new ideas and directions."
Some of those
new directions on Elephunk include songs like "Anxiety,"
which matches The Black Eyed Peas with popular platinum rock band
Papa Roach, whom they met and bonded with on tour. The group's
are really similar says will.i.am. "The energy between us
was thick. When we started talking to them, it was a real conversation,
like we were 60 and just hangin' out at a bus stop."
The song itself
relates the tension of the world today with personal struggles
the members of the different groups have gone through into one,
hard-hitting rhythmic jam. "These last couple of years haven't
been easy," says will.i.am. "Is it guilt? Stress? Uncertainty
over what's going to happen in the next five years? Is it rap?
Hip-hop? The fact that everyone is clubbin' and gun totin' and
we're thought of as just some fashionable motherfuckers? It's
a whole bunch of stuff going on."
couldn't be happier with the way the album's turned out, and he
feels people will be open to the new directions The Black Eyed
Peas are going in. "The audience is smarter than they've
ever been," he says. "Maybe ten years ago, they were
run-of-the-mill, but these kids today aren't the same. They've
got it together."
and breakdancing are integral parts of hip-hop culture, but by
1990 those elements had been temporarily eclipsed by the tough
gangster image and bleak but compelling lyrics of West Coast groups
like N.W.A.. However, despite sharing a zip code, Black Eyed Peas'
vision goes beyond the cracked-sidewalk vignettes and sampled
gunfire of Los Angeles' gangster style. The socially conscious
group's earliest connections go back to high school, when Will.I.Am
and Apl de Ap were part of Tribal Nation, a breakdancing crew.
Eventually the pair focused more on music -- hip-hop, specifically
-- and split off into their own as Atban Klann, their esoteric
name an acronym for A Tribe Beyond a Nation. Eazy-E's Ruthless
Records signed the group in 1992 , but many in the Ruthless camp
were puzzled by the group and the enthusiasm of Eazy, who had
no problem reconciling his own gangster style with the peace-minded
breakdancing of Atban. Although an album was recorded, Ruthless
shelved it, unsure how to market a group whose style wasn't dependent
on violent braggadocio like N.W.A.
of Eazy-E in 1995 signaled the end of any further deals with Ruthless.
Undaunted by the experience, Will and Apl recruited another dancer/MC,
Taboo, and reappeared as Black Eyed Peas. BEP began playing shows
around L.A., impressing hip-hop fans with their mic skills and
dazzling them with their footwork as well. In 1998 their debut,
Behind the Front, was released to critical acclaim -- not only
for the trio of MCs, but for their live band and backing vocalist
Kim Hill as well. Featuring guest appearances from Jurassic 5's
Chali 2na, De La Soul, and Macy Gray, BEP's sophomore effort,
Bridging the Gap, was released in 2000. The group's third album,
2003's Elephunk, featured a new member, Fergie, who replaced Kim