Musical genres, just as anything in life, matures and evolves as time passes by. Your grandfather’s metal sounds much different than the metal of today. Great-aunt Ida’s R&B may not be recognized as R&B is played on the radio in the 2010’s. as the times change, so does music. And one group that is the very evidence of that is the Black Eyed Peas.
The Black Eyed Peas trace their beginnings all the way back to 1988. Back then, eight-graders William Adams (will.i.am aka Will 1X) and Allan Pineda (apl.de.ap) met and begun performing rap music in the greater Los Angeles area. Four years later the two were signed to Easy-E’s Ruthless Records on the recommendation of a nephew of the gangsta rap icon manager’s nephew. Will.i.am and apl.de.ap recruited friends Dante Santiag, Mookie Mook, and DJ Motiv8 (aka Monroe Walker)o and named the group ATBAN Klann (ATBAN was an acronym meaning A Tribe Beyond A Nation). They were slated to released their debut album, Grass Roots, in October 1992 but this never occurred due to the death of Easy-E. Grass Roots was the only album recorded by ATBAN Klann and they were subsequently released for Ruthless Records.
In 1995 the group renamed themselves Black Eyed Pods which then became Black Eyed Peas. Jaime Gomez (Taboo) would replace Santiago. Despite not being a part of the band, he’s still close with them, and was featured in their song “Dum Diddly”. Kim Hill would provide backup vocals for the group. Differentiating from the traditional gangsta rap scene prominent in the Los Angeles hip-hop scene at the time, the Black Eyed Peas had unique musical style and image for the LA area. They did not wear the traditional gangsta rap uniform of gang affiliated colors, Dickies, Chuck Taylors, Loc sunglasses and oversized and over-starched garments. Instead they fashioned themselves in a more eclectic style, combining fashion elements of soul, R&B and popular youth cultures. Their music was absent of gangsta rap’s themes of drug dealing, killing, money making and hoe gettin’. .
They would sign to Interscope Records and release their debut album Behind the Front in 1998. The debut gave the Black Eyed Peas, and their band, critical acclaim. Their musical was soulful, thanks to the utilization of a live band and Hill’s and guest singer’s background vocals. In 2000 they followed up with Bridging the Gap, which contained the hit single “Request + Line”. This was the last album to feature Kim Hill as she left the group to pursue a solo career. The Black Eyed Peas originally wanted to add famous Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger to provide vocals, but Scherzinger was contractually obligated to her then current pop group Eden’s Crush. Friend and former member Santiago introduced the will.i.am to Stacy Ann “Fergie” Ferguson.
With the addition of Fergie the group released their breakthrough album Elephunk in 2003. the record contained the smash hit single “Where Is the Love?” which peaked at number 8 on the Hot 100 while topping the charts in many other countries. It also had the hit single “Shut Up” which was a bigger hit than “Where Is the Love?”. Elephunk peaked at number 14 on the Billboard 200 chart and has since been certified double Platinum by the RIAA. Rolling Stone noted that since 2002, when the group “hired a blond bombshell named Stacy ‘Fergie’ Ferguson and gave up their pursuit of backpack-rapper cred, they have made a kind of spiritual practice of recording futuristic songs – a total aesthetic commitment that extends from their garish wardrobes to their United Colors of Benetton worldview.”
2005 saw the release of the Black Eyed Peas fourth studio album Monkey Business. It contained the lead single “Don’t Phunk with My Heart” which peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the group’s first top 5 hit. The album also contained the popular club jam “My Humps”. The song received poor reviews by critics, some calling it tasteless. Many mocked the song for its poor lyrical content; John Bush, writing for Allmusic, described it as “one of the most embarrassing rap performances of the new millennium”. Monkey Business debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified triple Platinum.
After a hiatus, the Black Eyed Peas returned in 2009 with The E.N.D, an abbreviation of The Energy Never Dies. Will.i.am spoke to Billboard about the album’s title “It’s a diary […] of music that at any given time, depending on the inspiration, you can add to it… I’m trying to break away from the concept of an album. What is an album when you put 12 songs on iTunes and people can pick at it like scabs? That’s not an album. There is no album anymore. “The E.N.D. contained the mega-smash hit “I Gotta Feeling” which topped the charts for twenty-six straight weeks. Will.i.am stated that the album had been inspired by a trip to Australia, specifically the sound of The Presets’ “My People”. “The energy on the Presets’ small little stage was crazy energy. That song My People – that shit is wild,” will.i.am said, “That’s the reason why this record sounds the way it does – my three months in Australia.” The departure from the more R&B/soul sound of previous releases served the band well with many fans, and clubs, loving the more poppy, futuristic sound. The E.N.D. has gone quadruple Platinum.
The Black Eyed Peas released their sixth studio album The Beginning in November 2010. It is a sequel to The E.N.D. It debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 charts. The Beginning contains the singles “The Time (Dirty Bit)”, “Just Can’t Get Enough”, “Don’t Stop the Party” and “Whenever”. The chorus of “The Time (Dirty Bit)” samples and interpolates “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”, originally performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing. The album made Oprah’s Favorite Things for 2010. The Beginning received mixed reviews. Monica Herrera of Billboard wrote “the music is expertly produced, but problems arise when Will.i.am claims the same of his wordplay. On the track ‘Don’t Stop the Party,’ he chest-thumps, ‘Kill you with my lyricals/Call me verbal criminal.’ It’s a silly boast for an artist who clearly focuses on beats over rhymes, and is probably better off for it.” The album has not been as successful as The Black Eyed Peas previous releases, yet to achieve Platinum certification.
The Black Eyed Peas have been on a hiatus, but plan to return to the studio in 2013 to record the seventh album. Many fans are wondering what will become of the bands image and musical style. Will it be the futuristic stylings of their most recent efforts, will if more akin to their earlier releases, a combination of the two, or perhaps something new and different all together? What ever the Black Eyed Peas have planned for their future one thing is almost for certain…it’s sure to be interesting.