They have the phat beats and the tricky rhymes, but Black Eyed Peas are not just a hip-hop band. Proof of that can be found throughout their third album, Elephunk , with its all-embracing musical approach and deep grooves implied by the title, and such varied guests as rockers Papa Roach and teen pop idol Justin Timberlake.
The Los Angeles-based foursome boasts a progressive and conscious approach with a pop flair, thanks to a philosophy that isn't bound by genres and categories. "This is a hip-hop record, but we didn't go into this with hip-hop on our mind," says Will.I.Am. "We were just thinking of good songs, good music."
Their universal view of music reflects the group members' backgrounds: Will.I.Am is African-American, Apl.de.Ap is Filipino, and Taboo is Mexican-American. Will.I.Am and Apl.de.Ap met in eighth grade and formed a break-dance crew, and later began performing music as Atbann Klann. A deal with Ruthless Records didn't work out due to label head Eazy-E's death. Undaunted, they joined forces with Taboo and became Black Eyed Peas and signed with Interscope. The group immediately attracted attention with their mix of raps, samples, scratching and a live band on their 1989 debut, Behind The Front .
Their gift for winning fans from across the popular music spectrum was reflected by the mission statement in the title of the second album, Bridging The Gap , which, like their debut, featured guest vocals by Macy Gray. The Black Eyed Peas further diversified on Elephunk by adding singer Fergie to the act after asking her to join the sessions for a song and then using her on track after track.
The genre-crossing sound of the Black Eyed Peas has brought them pop chart success here and abroad, and found them playing on everything from the Coachella Festival to the Warped Tour to a tour with Christina Aguilera and Timberlake. As well, Will.I.Am recently started hosting his own TV show on MTV2.
Eschewing the gangster and materialist images of many hip-hoppers, the Black Eyed Peas make music with a mission. "We are a progressive hip-hop band. But our message is to be positive in general," says Apl.de.Ap.