BLACK EYED PEAS
Bridging the Gap
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.