BLACK EYED PEAS

Bridging the Gap

Exclaim! - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Erin Low­ers

For much of the 2000s, the Black Eyed Peas dom­i­nated ra­dio waves, push­ing out pop hits rooted in bo­da­cious hip-hop pro­duc­tion. But be­fore they reached multi-plat­inum group sta­tus, Black Eyed Peas were two kids from East L. A.: one, an im­mi­grant; the other, liv­ing in the projects. As hip-hop cul­ture started to pop­u­lar­ize in in L. A., will.i.am (fka Will 1X) and apl. de.ap would cre­ate a group that would see sev­eral changes: names, band mem­bers, vo­cal­ists and styles. Through it all, they’d re­tain their pas­sion for dance and mu­sic, and spend the lat­ter part of their ca­reers merg­ing the two, along­side rap­per Taboo and singer Fer­gie. Though many groups have crum­bled un­der the pres­sure over the past 20 years, the Black Eyed Peas have thrived on it, not only al­low­ing mem­bers to etch out their own solo paths, but also high­light­ing the re­silience of hip-hop cul­ture: start with noth­ing, leave with ev­ery­thing. This month, they say good­bye to long­time vo­cal­ist Fer­gie and mark a re­turn to their po­lit­i­cal roots with new al­bum Masters of the Sun Vol. 1.

1974 to 1987

Al­lan Pineda Lindo Jr. is born in 1974 in An­ge­les City, Philip­pines. Through an in­ter­na­tional spon­sor­ship pro­gram, Pineda vis­its the United States at age 11, specif­i­cally to treat an eye prob­lem that leaves him legally blind. Wil­liam James Adams Jr. is born in 1975 in In­gle­wood, CA, and is raised in East L. A.’s Estrada Courts projects with his six sib­lings. As a teenager, Adams’ mother sends him to Pal­isades Char­ter School, lo­cated in a wealthy area of town. Fol­low­ing his first visit to Amer­ica, Pineda is adopted and moves to Amer­ica in 1988. Through his adop­tive fa­ther, Joe Ben Hud­gens, the John Mar­shall High School stu­dent be­friends his fu­ture band­mate.

1988 to 1992

By grade 10, Adams and Pineda are go­ing to early raves and club nights at Club What?, im­mers­ing them­selves in the scene. They form a dance and rap crew called Tribal Na­tion, tak­ing on the names Will 1X (also spelled Wil­lonex) and apl. de.ap, bring­ing on mu­tual friends Dante San­ti­ago, rap­per Mooky Mook and DJ Mo­tiv8. Tribal Na­tion per­form through­out L. A., start­ing with Sun­set Strip’s ded­i­cated all-ages hip-hop club Bal­istyx, which is pro­moted by David Faustino (Bud Bundy on Mar­ried With Chil­dren). “[ We were rock­ing] the same stage that the Doors started on and that’s where I got my start,” will.i.am will re­count to HipHopDX.

Catch­ing the at­ten­tion of pro­ducer Bret Mazur ( Wolf and Epic), Mazur tips off Jerry Heller, man­ager of N.W. A. and co-founder of Ruth­less Records, about the bur­geon­ing group. Heller for­wards the in­for­ma­tion to rap­per Eazy-E, who meets 17-year old Will 1X at Bal­istyx.

Dur­ing the L.A. ri­ots in April 1992, Eazy-E signs Will 1X and apl.de.ap to Ruth­less Records with a $10,000 deal. Tribal Na­tion re­brands as A.T.B.A.N. Klann (“A Tribe Be­yond a Na­tion”), fit­ting in with the freeform mu­sic com­ing from the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. A.T.B.A.N. Klann make their de­but on Eazy-E’s first solo EP 5150: Home 4 the Sick with the DJ Mo­tiv8 and Will 1X-pro­duced sin­gle, “Merry Mutha­phuck­kin’ Xmas.”

1993 to 1994

A.T.B. A.N. Klann work on de­but al­bum Grass Roots. De­spite be­ing sched­uled for re­lease at the end of 1993, the al­bum, de­scribed as “fan­tas­tic” by Jerry Heller, is never re­leased. In 1994, the group re­lease a CD sin­gle and pro­mo­tional twelveinch ti­tled “Pud­dles of H20,” with the B-side sin­gle “Let Me Get Down” cred­ited as be­ing pro­duced by “Black Eyed Peas.”

1995

Fol­low­ing a six-week in­car­cer­a­tion for an as­sault charge, Mooky Mook, whose ex­pe­ri­ence af­fects him deeply, quits A.T.B. A.N. Klann dur­ing an ar­gu­ment. In late Fe­bru­ary, Eazy-E tells Will 1X that MTV is in­ter­ested in “Pud­dles of H20” — for the group, this is their show-and-prove mo­ment. In that same con­ver­sa­tion, Eazy-E re­veals that he’s in the hos­pi­tal with bron­chi­tis. Ten days later, on March 26, Eazy-E dies of AIDS.

Af­ter Eazy-E’s pass­ing and amidst le­gal is­sues, Ruth­less Records drop A.T.B.A.N. Klann. The la­bel, which owns the rights to the name, forces Will 1X to re­brand once again, first as Black Eyed Pods, be­fore set­tling on Black Eyed Peas — al­ready the in­for­mal name of the pro­duc­tion team of Will 1X and Mo­tiv8. Will 1X also de­cides to change his name to will.i.am.

Dante San­ti­ago leaves the group (main­tain­ing a guest vo­cal­ist po­si­tion), and Jamie Luis Gomez, aka Taboo, joins af­ter a long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween A.T.B. A.N. Klann and his own dance out­fit, Di­vine Tribal Broth­ers. At a BMI show­case, the Black Eyed Peas meet singer Kim Hill. “We met and we re­ally clicked, will and I had a con­nec­tion as mu­si­cians… [and] we im­me­di­ately started writ­ing to­gether,” Hill says. Hill joins B.E.P. and signs to will.i.am’s la­bel I Am Mu­sic, but main­tains her solo ca­reer and only plays the group’s most sig­nif­i­cant shows.

1996 to 1997

The Black Eyed Peas record a demo tape, com­prised of old school-style tracks, but it’s their uptempo track “Joints & Jam” that gets play on col­lege cam­puses and in clubs. As the group’s mu­sic gets more pop­u­lar across L. A., their man­age­ment ar­ranges a club show­case at the Dragon­fly Club; Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of In­ter­scope Records, al­ready has a copy of their demo and at­tends. The Black Eyed Peas sign to In­ter­scope for $500,000 for a three-al­bum deal; the la­bel also agrees to over­see will.i.am’s. I Am Mu­sic la­bel.

De­spite shoot­ing a video for forth­com­ing al­bum sin­gle “Head Bobs,” the group hold off on re­leas­ing it. In De­cem­ber 1997, will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo, along with new group vo­cal­ist Sierra Swan, make their de­but as the Black Eyed Peas with the dou­ble

sin­gle “Fallin’ Up/¿Que Dices?,” along with its ac­com­pa­ny­ing sepia-shot video. The video sets up the group’s iden­tity: sim­ple, grass­roots, peace­ful, fun, con­scious and lyri­cal.

1998

On June 30, the Black Eyed Peas re­lease stu­dio de­but Be­hind the Front to pos­i­tive re­cep­tion. The 16-track al­bum con­sists of sev­eral songs rere­corded for their orig­i­nal Ruth­less Records Grass Roots al­bum to in­clude verses from Taboo, in­clud­ing “Joints & Jam.” The al­bum also marks singer Macy Gray’s record­ing de­but, on the sin­gle “Love Won’t Wait.”

Be­hind the Front reaches #37 on the Bill­board R&B chart and #129 on the Bill­board Top 200, sell­ing ap­prox­i­mately 300,000 copies. Nom­i­nated for two UK MOBO Awards, the group fly to Lon­don in Septem­ber 1998, sub­se­quently help­ing to re­de­fine how West coast rap mu­sic is per­ceived.

2000

The Black Eyed Peas com­plete work on Kim Hill’s solo al­bum, but it’s re­jected by In­ter­scope. On Septem­ber 26, 2000, the group re­lease Bridging the Gap, their at­tempt to con­nect dif­fer­ent worlds, gen­res and coun­tries. It sells ap­prox­i­mately 250,000 units. Singer Macy Gray, who has since be­come a break­out star with her sin­gle “I Try,” re­turns to sing on “Re­quest + Line”; it be­comes the group’s first

Bill­board Hot 100 sin­gle, reach­ing #63. Kim Hill, who in 2010 will claim that the la­bel is try­ing to over-sex­u­al­ize her, de­cides to leave Black Eyed Peas per­ma­nently.

2001

In April, the Black Eyed Peas play a con­cert with Cal­i­for­nia-based girl band Wild Orchid in Minneapolis; their front­woman is Stacy Fer­gu­son, who orig­i­nally met B.E.P. in 1998. At the time, she’s strug­gling with ad­dic­tion and eat­ing dis­or­der is­sues. will.i.am rec­og­nizes the need for a fe­male voice in the group and asks Ni­cole Scherzinger (later of the Pussy­cat Dolls) to join them; Scherzinger, a mem­ber of girl group Eden’s Crush, de­clines, as she’s un­der con­tract.

Black Eyed Peas start work on their third al­bum, but fol­low­ing the events of 9/11, the al­bum takes a turn. In De­cem­ber, will.i.am. and key­boardist Printz Board be­gin work­ing on a song at will.i.am’s newly ren­o­vated stu­dio that will later be­come “Where Is the Love?”

2002

Af­ter per­form­ing with Justin Tim­ber­lake at a Hol­ly­wood club, Taboo reaches out to the *NSYNC vo­cal­ist with a writ­ten cho­rus to “Where Is the Love?” In March, the song is recorded; it won’t be re­leased un­til the fol­low­ing year.

Along­side Garth Brooks and Mark Mc­Grath of Su­gar Ray, Dr. Pep­per en­lists the Black Eyed Peas for their “Be You” cam­paign, giv­ing them a $100,000 ad­vance. The cam­paign is per­ceived as a bla­tant cry to reach black and Latino au­di­ences, and the Black Eyed Peas are sub­se­quently cru­ci­fied for be­ing sell-outs.

As the Black Eyed Peas are look­ing for a fe­male vo­cal­ist to bring con­cept song “Shut Up” to­gether, orig­i­nal mem­ber Dante San­ti­ago brings a now-sober Stacy Fer­gu­son to the stu­dio. Af­ter record­ing the song and de­vel­op­ing a re­la­tion­ship with the group, Jimmy Iovine sug­gests they make Fer­gu­son an of­fi­cial mem­ber. They bring her in, re­name her Fer­gie and take her on tour.

2003

With Ele­phunk to be re­leased in June, the group re-work “Where Is the Love?” to in­clude Fer­gie’s vo­cals. The song, re­leased in mid-June, in­tro­duces the new group, but they main­tain their so­cio-po­lit­i­cal roots. “Where Is the Love?” is nom­i­nated for Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Col­lab­o­ra­tion at the Gram­mys, los­ing to Cold­play’s “Clocks” and “Crazy in Love” by Bey­oncé with JAY-Z, re­spec­tively.

While the group are on tour with Justin Tim­ber­lake and Christina Aguil­era, Ele­phunk reaches #14 on Bill­board, #3 in the UK and sells over eight mil­lion copies world­wide.

2004 to 2005

Al­most a year to the day af­ter Ele­phunk’s re­lease, B.E.P. drop fourth sin­gle “Let’s Get It Started,” which reaches #21 on the U.S. charts and #11 in the UK. A week af­ter play­ing the Su­per Bowl pre-game show with Earth, Wind & Fire, the Black Eyed Peas win a Grammy for Best Rap Per­for­mance by a Duo or Group for the song.

Mon­key Busi­ness is re­leased on June 7, 2005 to mixed re­views. In­spired by the group’s world­wide trav­els, the al­bum plays to global sounds, with each sin­gle distin­guish­ing it­self to a dif­fer­ent market, in­clud­ing “Don’t Phunk with My Heart” and “My Humps.” It sells over 11 mil­lion copies world­wide. The Black Eyed Peas em­bark on the 137-date “Mon­key Busi­ness” tour; in the midst of it, will.i.am an­nounces that the group will shift its fo­cus to solo en­deav­ours while they take a brief hia­tus.

2006

To the dis­may of fem­i­nists, “My Humps” — which gets crit­i­cized for “set­ting the base of fem­i­nism back sev­eral decades” — gets turned into a mo­bile ring­tone that sells over two mil­lion units and wins both Best Hip-Hop Video at the VMA awards and a Grammy in 2007.

Fer­gie re­leases her solo de­but, The Dutchess, on Septem­ber 13 on will.i.am’s im­print. The al­bum launches Fer­gie into star­dom on her own, and reaches #2 on the Bill­board 200, spend­ing 94 weeks on the chart.

2007 to 2009

On March 27, 2007, Taboo is ar­rested for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence and is in­car­cer­ated; he gets sober. As Barack Obama cam­paigns to be­come pres­i­dent, will.i.am puts his sup­port be­hind the po­lit­i­cal move­ment, mak­ing a multi-celebrity video ti­tled, “Yes We Can.” He’ll per­form at one of the in­au­gu­ra­tion events for Obama in Jan­uary 2009.

They re­lease the elec­tro-hop sin­gle “Boom Boom Pow” in March, 2009. A far cry from their hip-hop roots, the song be­comes their first #1 sin­gle, fol­lowed shortly by “I Gotta Feel­ing,” which stays at #1 for 14 weeks.

The group re­lease The E.N.D. (The En­ergy Never Dies) on June 9, 2009.

2010

At the Gram­mys, B.E.P win Best Pop Vo­cal Al­bum for The E.N.D., Best Pop Vo­cal Per­for- mance by a Group for “I Gotta Feel­ing” and Best Short Form Video for “Boom Boom Pow.”

Af­ter a tour leg in Canada, they re­lease a remix com­pi­la­tion ti­tled The E.N.D. Sum­mer 2010 Cana­dian In­va­sion Col­lec­tion on iTunes in Canada only. It doesn’t make much noise. They re­lease The Be­gin­ning on Novem­ber 30.

2011

The Be­gin­ning is met with mixed re­views, but the group are in­vited to per­form at the 2011 Su­per Bowl. In July, at a con­cert at Al­ton Tow­ers in Stafford­shire, they an­nounce that they are tak­ing an indefinite hia­tus, though will.i.am. tweets shortly af­ter that it doesn’t mean they will “stop cre­at­ing.”

2012 to 2014

will.i.am re­leases #willpower in April 2013. Fer­gie re­leases three dif­fer­ent fra­grances be­tween 2011 and 2015. apl.de.ap ap­pears as a judge on two sea­sons of The Voice of the Phillip­pines and is a guest men­tor, with will.i.am, on The Voice Aus­tralia.

2015

will.i.am an­nounces that the group are com­ing to­gether to cel­e­brate their 20th an­niver­sary and work on their sev­enth stu­dio al­bum. They pre­miere “Awe­some” on UK ra­dio; it does not fea­ture Fer­gie. In sum­mer, they re­lease their new­est sin­gle “Yes­ter­day” with Fer­gie still ab­sent. In a con­ver­sa­tion with BET, will.i.am puts ru­mours to rest, say­ing that they are work­ing on new mu­sic with her, and the old-school-styled video was to pay homage to their 20-year an­niver­sary.

2016 to 2017

Af­ter five years of no new mu­sic, ru­mours start once more that Fer­gie is no longer a mem­ber of Black Eyed Peas.

2018

In Fe­bru­ary, the Black Eyed Peas re­lease their first sin­gle in seven years, “Street Livin’.” will.i.am an­nounces that Fer­gie has left the group. “We are now a trio. I don’t know why Fer­gie isn’t on the project. You will have to ask Fer­gie that,” he says in an in­ter­view with Daily Star. The sin­gle is fol­lowed by “Ring the Alarm” and “Get It,” as well as news that the new al­bum will mark a re­turn to the group’s so­ciopo­lit­i­cal hip-hop roots. Masters of the Sun Vol. 1 comes out on Oc­to­ber 26.

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