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Members include Apl.de.Ap (born Alan Pineda Lindo on November 20, 1974), dancer, rapper; Fergie (born Stacey Ferguson; joined group, 2001), vocals; Kim Hill (left group, 2001), vocals; Taboo (born Jamie Gomez on July 14, 1975), dancer, emcee; Will.I.Am (born William Adams on March 15, 1975), dancer, rapper. Addresses: Record company--A&M Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404, website: http://www.interscope.com. Agent--William Morris Agency, 1325 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, phone: (212) 586-5100, fax: (212) 246-3583, website: http://www.wma.com. Website--Black Eyed Peas Official Website: http://www.blackeyedpeas.com.
Known for their nonviolent lyrical message, the alternative rap group Black Eyed Peas shunned gangsta rap's aggression and materialism in favor of socially conscious lyrics. Their first album, Behind the Front, caught critics' attention in 1998, and the group became more popular with each of their next two releases. By 2003, their third album, Elephunk, had blasted to the number-one on spot Billboard's Top 40 list, and earned them their first Billboard award, as well as three Grammy nominations. They are often compared to De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, two other positive hip-hop groups that came before them.
Group members Will.I.Am and Apl.de.Ap first met as Los Angeles eighth-graders in 1989. They performed with a break dancing crew called Tribal Nation, part of the East L.A. rap community. (Break dancing would later figure strongly in Black Eyed Peas' live shows.) Over time, they developed an interest in creating hip-hop music as well as dancing to it. The aspiring rappers set out as a duo after high school, calling themselves Atban ("a tribe beyond a nation") Klann--a nod to their former crew.
Unfortunately, the boys watched many of their friends from their Boyle Heights neighborhood abandon their hip-hop dreams and turn to selling drugs for money, often ending up in prison. "Eventually, when it came time to make a living," Will.I.Am explained in an interview with Mean Street magazine, "they chose a different living, and I tried to go make a career out of music."
The duo had drummed up enough attention around Los Angeles by 1992 that they were able to sign a recording contract with Ruthless Records, former NWA frontman Eazy-E's record label. Eazy was perhaps the only person at the label to whom the signing made any sense--he was infamous for his raunchy and violent lyrics, unlike the laid-back, peace-spouting Atban Klann. Will.I.Am and Apl.de.Ap managed to record an entire album for Ruthless, but their effort never saw the light of day. The label's marketing team, used to promoting one-dimensional gangsta acts, had no idea what to do with the break dancing duo.
Will.I.Am and Apl.de.Ap spent a couple of years with the label, but any hope they had of launching a career with Ruthless effectively ended with Eazy-E's death from AIDS in 1995. The one person at the label who had believed in them was gone, and the future of the label itself was uncertain.
Resourceful and driven, Will.I.Am and Apl.de.Ap doubled their efforts and decided to reinvent themselves. They took on a third member, Taboo, whom they met at Ballistics, a Los Angeles break dancing club, and christened themselves the Black Eyed Peas, "a name that we felt was soulful, like our music," Taboo told Fox News. The group's efforts were rewarded in short order when they signed a major label contract with Interscope Records in July of 1997.
The grouped, backed by vocalist Kim Hill and a four-piece band, released their 16-song debut Behind the Front in 1998. They were immediately likened to the Roots, another hip-hop group who performed with live musicians. "We wanted the emotions and spontaneity of a live group," Will.I.Am said in the group's biography published on their official website. "Each time is like a new time because of the energy and feeling that's put into it; it's like you're performing a different song even though the lyrics are the same." The result, according to MTV, is an "organic, up-tempo groove."
The Black Eyed Peas part company with other rap acts, critics note, with their almost defiantly positive lyrics. They question the violent state of hip-hop in "Positivity," and tell of their frustration when the hip-hop community gave them grief for forging new territory in "Fallin' Up." In "Karma," the group raps about their own place in the Karmic cycle. The album was a hit with critics, and built the group a national fan base.
Black Eyed Peas fans had to wait two long years for another release. After a relentless touring schedule that included spots on such diverse tours as the Smokin' Grooves hip-hop tour, the Sno-Core snowboard tour, the Van Warped Tour (ordinarily a showcase for punk pop), the Lyricist Lounge tour (also hip-hop based), and a stint as an opening act for the hip-hop group Outkast, the Peas headed back into the studio.
Their second full-length album, Bridging the Gap, was released in 2000. The album's title is a testament to the group's pioneering musical nature. It "means we're bridging the gap between rock-hop and hip-hop," Will.I.Am told MTV.com. "There are a lot of cats that don't like rock, and a lot of rock cats that don't like hip-hop. So we're bridging that gap." Grammy Award-winning singer Macy Gray made an appearance on the album, just as she had on Behind the Front.
The Peas broke out in 2003 with their third full-length album, Elephunk, which went gold in September of that year. "We liked the idea of an elephant meaning something which is strong and can be aggressive, although that isn't its nature," Will.I.Am said in an interview with the Boston Globe published online at KansasCity.com. "And we wanted to bring in the idea of funk that isn't typical ... but something deeper and stronger." Adding to the depth and strength of the album was female vocalist Fergie, who had replaced Kim Hill in 2001. Far from typical for a hip-hop group, the Peas teamed up with pop star Justin Timberlake to produce the number-one hit "Where is the Love," a musical plea for unity and understanding. The group then joined Timberlake on his tour with pop diva Christina Aguilera.
The group survived the rigors of a stadium tour with the biggest stars in pop music with their vision and their message intact. Perhaps the biggest indication that they have reached a new level of success came in December of 2003, when they were nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year for "Where is the Love."
"We like to have a good time, but we are positive, conscious people," Will.I.Am told the Boston Globe. "Since rapping is what we do, people call us conscious rappers, and that's cool. That's who I am, a conscious person. If I were a plumber, I'd be a conscious plumber."
by Brenna Sanchez
Black Eyed Peas's Career
Group formed in Los Angeles, CA, c. 1995; added backing vocalist Kim Hill, 1995; released debut album, Behind the Front, 1998; released Bridging the Gap, 2000; Kim Hill left the group, Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson joined, c. 2001; released Elephunk, 2003.
Black Eyed Peas's Awards
Billboard Award, Mainstream Top 40 Track of the Year for "Where is the Love," 2003.
- Selected discography
- Behind the Front Interscope, 1998.
- Bridging the Gap Interscope, 2000.
- Elephunk A&M, 2003.
February 13, 2005: Black Eyed Peas won the Grammy Award for best rap performance by a duo or group for "Let's Get It Started." Source: Grammys.com, www.grammys.com/awards/grammy/47winners, February 14, 2005.
October 4, 2005: Black Eyed Peas' album, Maximum Black Eyed Peas, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/index.jsp, October 7, 2005.
November 22, 2005: Black Eyed Peas won two American Music Awards, including favorite pop/rock band, duo, or group and favorite rap/hip-hop band, duo, or group. Source: 2005 American Music Awards, http://abc.go.com/primetime/ama05/index.html, November 27, 2005.
February 8, 2006: Black Eyed Peas won the Grammy Award for best rap performance by a duo or group for "Don't Phunk with My Heart." Source: Grammy.com, http://grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Annual_Show/48_nominees.aspx, February 9, 2006.
July 2006: Ferguson's children's book Little Red's Summer Adventure was published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. Source: Simon & Schuster, www.simonsays.com, July 6, 2006.
- Billboard, June 28, 2003, p. 13.
- Entertainment Weekly, November 22, 2002, p. 74; June 27, 2003, p. 138.
- Hollywood Reporter, August 21, 2003, p. 10.
- Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, August 11, 2003.
- People, July 14, 2003, p. 39.
- WWD, November 20, 2003, p. 4.
- "Black Eyed Peas," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (September 22, 2003).
- "Black Eyed Peas," Hip Online, http://www.hiponline.com/artist/music/b/black_eyed_peas/ (September 22, 2003).
- "Black Eyed Peas," Mean Street, http://meanstreet.120decibel.com/article.php?article_id=126&issue_id=39 (September 22, 2003).
- "Black Eyed Peas," Pop Matters, http://www.popmatters.com/music/reviews/b/blackeyedpeas-elephunk.shtml (September 22, 2003).
- "Black Eyed Peas: Bio," MTV, http://www.mtv.com/bands/az/black_eyed_peas/bio.jhtml (September 22, 2003).
- "Black Eyed Peas: Black Eyed Peas Talk Bridging the Gap," MTV News Archive, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1425922/06022000/black_eyed_peas.jhtml (September 22, 2003).
- Black Eyed Peas Official Website, http://www.blackeyedpeas.com (September 22, 2003).
- "Non-Violent Hip-Hop Tops the Charts," Fox News, http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,943930,00.html (September 22, 2003).
- "Pop Tour Hasn't Taken the Soul out of These Peas," Kansas City Star, http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/entertainment/6560378.htm (September 22, 2003).
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