The Black Eyed Peas has an illustrious career that has them trailblazing the music industry for 25 years. According to Billboard, the main trio of Will.I.Am., Taboo, and apl.de.ap are venturing into a new sound and taking over the Latin charts. With a multicultural background, they’ve reached a global audience and their music has translated worldwide. They talk about their career, their transition to Latin music for their second act, and their bond as friends and a band.
“The group has sold 12.4 million albums and garnered 2.5 billion streams and 48.8 million downloads in the United States, according to MRC Data. The Black Eyed Peas have earned six Grammy Awards out of 15 nominations, including wins for best pop vocal album in 2009 and consecutive wins for best rap performance by a duo or group for ‘Let’s Get It Started’ in 2004 and ‘Don’t Phunk With My Heart’ in 2005.“
Inspired by A Tribe Called Quest and other jazz-rap fusion groups. Was the goal to have a crosscultural sound?
will.i.am: I always made music and rapped at people’s quinceañeras and birthday parties with DJ Gus and DJ Gil in our projects. When Apl came, we started going to these Filipino parties in Glendale because he was a dancer.
apl.de.ap: Dance was my first introduction to hip-hop. I saw break dancing in a Pepsi commercial and it blew my mind, so I started researching and practicing it. When I finally met Will, I showed him the “running man” and he said, “Yo, you should start rapping. If you can dance, you can rap.” I didn’t speak English, man. We would make beats on the tape deck and freestyle over the instrumentals. He said, “Just rhyme anything off the top of your head.” I only had one thing in my head — the ABCs in Tagalog [the national language of the Philippines] — and Will says, “You got it, man!”
Taboo, your role was more of as a hype man, right?
Taboo: I always looked at myself as the showman, trying to get the crowd involved. I learned that from pro wrestling and watching people like Hulk Hogan. I always knew what my energy was on the stage. I was going to transfer that energy even if I didn’t say one rap. As long as I controlled that part of the show, I was good with that. I looked at Will and Apl as my guides to be able to find myself as an entertainer, as an MC, as an entrepreneur.
What is your relationship to Fergie now?
will.i.am: She’s part of the family. Playing the Super Bowl was a big milestone because at the time that event didn’t program contemporary artists after the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. It was between Black Eyed Peas and Bon Jovi, so I flew out to New Jersey with my DJ equipment for the pitch, and told them the Black Eyed Peas have always been safe. We take pride in bringing families to our show. And I did a little DJ set for them.
What was your goal with your latest album, Translation?
apl.de.ap: The way we approached Translation was with a DJ mentality. You could just play the whole album and let it roll for a party. Every song is bam, bam, bam.
Taboo: It forced us to go back into loving the hunger of the hunt. Going to the Billboard Latin Awards in Las Vegas and meeting Balvin on the red carpet, we were hunting.
will.i.am: And Shakira will always be my darling of “no good ideas ever get old,” because that song was from 2008. Translation did beyond what we thought was possible.
Although they have their day job, the trio are actively giving back. Apl.de.ap started the Apl.de.ap Foundation, which supports Filipino youth by partnering with organizations that focus on computer technology, the arts and eye care. Taboo battled stage two testicular cancer and since then he’s become an advocate for better health care, particularly in Indigenous communities. Will.I.Am has the i.am Angel Foundation that launched in 2009. It is devoted to providing scholarships, preparation and opportunities in STEAM subjects to kids in Los Angeles. It earned him the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Crystal Award for leadership in creating education opportunities for the underserved.
The key to their career is to be a student and keep on learning. Will.I.Am emphasizes that humility is what allowed them to have success over and over again. They never gave up and kept going. There’s more gas left in the tank for the Black Eyed Peas, they’re just getting the party started.
Cover Photo Credit: Black Eyed Peas Twitter