Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Black Eyed Peas 3 by Nabil Elderkin
Nine Songs
The Black Eyed Peas

Having competed in and dominated every genre they touch,, Taboo and talk, sing and rap Max Gayler through the songs that inspired each of their eight albums and explain why “Where Is The Love?” is the past, present and future of music.

19 June 2020, 10:00 | Words by Max Gayler

Perfecting the art of hooks and identifying with the Native Tongues movement taught the Black Eyed Peas the secrets of mass appeal. Now diving headfirst into afrobeat and Latin music on new album Translation, their recipe for success contains some new ingredients., Taboo and, the trio that have remained present on every Black Eyed Peas album, have ushered their music through an eclectic array of sounds. The bossa nova style and new school hip hop that defined their early albums evolved into something more accessible on their breakout records Elephunk and Monkey Business. As their exploration of electronic production styles found its rhythm on their following albums, it's their 2018 comeback album, Masters of the Sun Vol. 1, that saw them return to their roots.

“NO MAÑANA” and “MAMACITA” from their latest record Translation, further demonstrate the Black Eyed Peas malleability. After collaborating with Piso 21 on the 2019 dancehall track “Mami”, the group appeared to be taking another departure from the roots of hip hop they'd returned to on their seventh album. Featuring the prince of reggaeton himself, J Balvin, their song “RITMO” has become the most successful Latin song this year, having spent 20 weeks at number 1.

Worldwide personalities like frequently muse on the future of music. His solo song “Reach For The Stars” was streamed from the Mars Rover and became the first song to ever be broadcast on a different planet. Fittingly, he has frequently discussed his investment in A.I .and how machines will control the future of music.

“We're not going to outthink the machine,” he tells me. “If we were mathematicians and you asked me, “What's the future of calculating?” I'd be like, ‘a fucking calculator.’ You know what I'm saying? They already came up with calculators, so you don't have to do that anymore. So the future of music has gotta be something else and it's gonna be a machine.”

Whether is the person operating that machine or not, he still believes in the unmatchable value of human connection and collaboration. That's what catapulted their music into the spotlight and helped the Black Eyed Peas create songs they're still inspired by. Now ready to release their eighth studio album, as we talk through the songs that love,, Taboo and also rap, sing and beatbox some of their explanations down the transatlantic phone line, as they take a look back at the songs that influenced each of their records.

“Description of a Fool” by A Tribe Called Quest “Throughout making Behind The Front, we were like, 'Let's make a song like that.' One second, let me just remember this rhythm [hums “Description Of A Fool”]. I want to remember it perfectly. I was 15 years old when that came out. No wait, I was 14. Apl had just come to L.A from the Philippines.

“The kind of music that was playing in the hood was N.W.A and Public Enemy. It was all very aggressive, and then here comes this Tribe Called Quest jam that is all positive and jazzy. It reminded me of Earth, Wind & Fire. I can hear soulful jazz pouring out of the song. It was so hypnotic, and you could still dance to it. Gangster rap wasn't even called gangster rap at first, it was called reality rap. N.W.A were the ones that coined that phrase. Back in '89 that's what we said. Gangster rap turned up in '94 and '95, but everything was called R&B or hip hop back then.

“This song let me know I could be the way my Mom raised me and be myself, it gave us that license to enjoy it. A lot of rap music was all Dickies and white t-shirts or Raiders jackets. Then you've got Run DMC rocking street wear, but we were poor growing up so we couldn't afford all that stuff. We'd be going to thrift stores. I didn't have a Lakers jersey, but this music made that fine. It told us we didn't have to look like we're from the streets. So when I first listened to this song, it opened up a new world. I'm pretty sure Tab feels the same way, right?"

Taboo: “When Tribe first came out, we saw the video for “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” and that was the first time we'd seen them on screen. They were dressed so fresh and had such a distinguished vibe. It wasn't something of the norm in L.A, so as a dancer I wanted to rock that type of gear.

“Even the rhyme patterns and the way they delivered their messaging spoke to me. And even though I wasn't from New York, where hip hop was born, I was really gravitating to the Native Tongues movement." “Before I was able to speak English fluently, I would just listen to Tribe Called Quest. That's how I learned. They wrote in almost perfect grammar. Every line was almost like a sentence, so it made it easy to learn English." "I also want to mention “Brazilian Rhymes” by Earth, Wind & Fire. That song was an African-American perspective of what was going on in Brazil and a big inspiration behind our first record. But mainly the songs from freakin' People's instinctive Paths And Time or whatever it was called." [Laughing] “People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.”

“A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays’” by De La Soul

Taboo: “De La has always been there, much like Tribe as far as inspiration goes. If it wasn't for Tribe there would be no De La and if it wasn't for De La there would be no Tribe. It's that camaraderie they have between them that is so inspiring. Growing up dancing to their music I know how much it impacted me as a teenager. “Saturday” was the song we'd always go to and be like, ‘Yo, I want to battle to that song, someone play it.’

“It was also the first time we heard a girl singing on a hook, which obviously inspired the next albums we made too. It was dope emcees rapping over a dope beat, and then you have this amazing emcee Vinia Mojica rocking the chorus. It was such a fresh sound and it really taught us that we could rock something like that too. That's how “Joints & Jam” and the decision to put a female vocal on the hook came about." “We wanted a song just like this so we wrote “Weekend” on our second album Bridging The Gap. I remember when I heard that, I was like, ‘Yo!’ The song “Weekend” taught me how to write raps, “Saturday” taught me how to write songs. It's got that crazy that funky intro." [Beatboxes the intro to “Saturday”] [Starts rapping over it] “’Boy meets girl on a Thursday night / Boy was high, girl fly like a kite.’" “It was like hip hop song architecture. That's what that song taught us.”

Taboo: “Agreed.” “LL Cool J had some songs like “Around The Way Girl”, but that was more R&B. I liked that song, but I wasn't really an R&B fan. It didn't inspire me to write songs that sounded like it. There's a girl on that hook and there are so many songs from that time I love. But the way De La Soul did it on “Saturday” is iconic.

“Here's a better way to look at it. On “Around The Way Girl” it felt like there were some adults in the room telling them what to do, but with De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest there's nobody pointing out something that isn't in key or doesn't feel right." “I'd literally just arrived from The Philippines and the first song I remember hearing was by Milli Vanilli. I told Will when I met him that I really liked that song, but he was like, ‘No, no, no. You gotta listen to this style of music.’ So we went to the mall and picked up 3 Feet High And Rising by De La Soul.”

“Ms. Jackson” by OutKast “This was the song that made us just completely rethink before we wrote Elephunk - ‘Wait, you can play music like that on the radio? Since when? Oh, hell no! That's dope!’

“Before that we were making music for a particular kind of club, or particular kind of radio station, but when they started playing things like Common and OutKast on the radio and they were getting into the top 40, we had to switch things up. It was like, ‘Here we go, fuck that other stuff.’ Without this song there would be no “Shut Up”, there would be no “Where Is The Love?” We started doing more traditional chord progressions and avoiding the bossa nova and jazz approach we'd been using on the first two records.

“Here's a song about a guy that is written so well. He's in this relationship and the Mom is upset about how he hurt her daughter. It's the opposite of another song called “Your Mom's In My Business” by K-Solo. It goes, ‘Your mom's in my business, she's in my business / Can't you see? Your mom's in my business / Tell your mom to mind her business.’ You remember that shit guys?” “Definitely.” “There's this macho perspective of songwriting, where you can never express that you're sorry, or that you made a mistake. It's one thing to say sorry to your girlfriend, but to say it to her Mom is beautiful, he's saying sorry to Miss Jackson because he didn't mean to hurt her daughter. That then taught us that we could actually sing on the chorus. Just because we're rappers doesn't mean we can't be the hook on the chorus too. It suddenly made so much sense. It was like, ‘Thanks for the fucking life lesson. Guess what? I'm singing on choruses now.’”

Taboo: “It's exactly that feeling of not being afraid to try things and André 3000 is definitely that kind of artist. Especially on that song, where he's like ‘I'm gonna put a couple stacks on my vocal while I'm singing this chorus. but I'm gonna rock it and be confident about it.’

“In that way, I think Will has come a long way from the first times he was singing the chorus compared to where he is now. We even call him Captain Hook, because he has hooks for days. It's dope to hear that song could inspire him like that. We toured with OutKast and they hadn't released this song yet, but man, we were excited when it came out.” “I was just really impressed with how they flipped the wedding song sample at the start. You're like, ‘Damn, that's brave.’ For it to be so danceable still is an example of how great that song is.”

“Toxic” by Britney Spears “That production is just like, ‘What the fuck?’ We used to go to this club in London all the time called Chinawhite. We'd hear this kind of production and stuff that sounds like what Sean Paul was doing. Those songs were responsible for us perfecting that style on Monkey Business.

“I remember saying to people, “Yo, did you hear that new Britney Spears production? Who produced this thing?’ So then we went straight into making “Don't Phunk With My Heart”, that was my answer to that verse melody where she sings, “Too high / Can't come down”. The main hook of our song is so inspired by “Toxic”. We just kept it as Black Eyed Peas as possible.”

“World Hold On” by Bob Sinclar “We tried our hardest to get a song that was just as infectious as Bob Sinclar when we were making The E.N.D. And I feel like we accomplished that with “I've Gotta Feeling”. We thought we were doing international music before, but once we heard this song we knew we had to do something more. I was like, ‘What the fuck is this?’

“This is the moment we were like, ‘Yo, let's do this dance shit.’ When we heard “World Hold On” and “The Weekend” by Michael Gray too. We used to use that song as a reference all the time.

“This was a big change in our sound. and it was on purpose. It was like, ‘Yo, so let's compete over here now. We already been making music over there, so let's jump into something else.’ We toured with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears and tried all these huge productions and shows, and because of that we got to fly around the world and see different cultures and be in different clubs. We were face to face with international music and the atmosphere of songs like “World Hold On”.

“In 2007, the Black Eyed Peas were on our global Pepsi tour and going to places that places that people didn't normally play. It was places like Slovakia, Taiwan, Hungary, Lithuania, India, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and even Kazakhstan. We did this crazy world tour and touched so many places. And the only music you could hear everywhere was dance music. But it was the underground clubs we were going to. With these afterparties going on until like shit thirty.” “Shit thirty?” [laughs] “Yeah, shit thirty in the morning. That's where we were first hearing songs like “World Hold On”. Back when we were going to Vegas and it was just a casino place. It wasn't the dance or club life people know it as now.

“So we would go to Vegas when we came back and do some show where we get paid a bunch, then we'd go to these clubs and they were also playing this song. I was like, ‘Yo, what the fuck? I heard that song when I was on the other side of the world.’ Then I started diving more into that sound and it felt like what the world was outside America. To me, that song feels like Cannes and all these beautiful places where people aren't listening to Latin or urban music. It's for all walks of life.”

“Love Is Gone” by David Guetta and Chris Willis “For every song we mention here, it was always this feeling of ‘I want a song like this, I want a song like that.’ This was a time when we were listening to so much amazing music that we were heavily influenced by. If I'm honest, this album was an extension of The E.N.D, so this song was also a big part of why we went for a change in sound and decided to compete somewhere else.

“When we first started listening to this song it really reminded us of “Music Sounds Better With You” by Stardust, that guitar line and way they produced that beat really helped carve out the sound of The Beginning along with “Love Is Gone”. You can hear that electronic world sound on “Dirty Bit“ and you can hear it on “Just Can't Get Enough”.

“Joints & Jam” by The Black Eyed Peas “After eight years away, this was the moment we wanted to go back and compete with ourselves. So this song off Behind The Front was where we'd set the bar and what we wanted to beat.” “We wanted to compete with our younger selves. We almost wanted it to be a sequel to our debut.” “Yeah, exactly. We wanted to see if we could actually make records better than we could when we were 25 - ‘Let's compete with that.’” “We wanted to rethink things though and really focus on our lyrics. We wanted to outdo what we did on Behind the Front on a line to line basis. It's almost this rap battle going on between Masters of the Sun Vol. 1 and “Joints & Jam” “I remember coming up with this chorus. ‘That's the joint, that's the jam / Turn that shit up, play it again.’ That's because we'd sent this demo to this guy that goes by the name of Big Jon. He's still a dynamic name in the music industry. When we handed him this demo he said, ‘I can't say your music is all that. It's good, but it's not tangible.” I didn't even fucking know what that word meant, so I had no clue what he was saying.

“He told us to come back when we had something better. I left that meeting feeling so perplexed. I was 21 years old at the time, so we didn't have dictionaries on our phones. I went home and grabbed a real dictionary and looked up the word 'tangible'. I suddenly realised he meant he wanted something with a hook, so the first hook I ever wrote was “Joints & Jam”. We were using weird kinds of chord progressions back then. The beat was made by this DJ called Paul Poli and myself. I felt like Tribe and De La. We realised we'd cracked code. We were like, ‘This is going to unlock all of our dreams and take us around the word. This is our recipe. This is it.’” “Even then we were starting to sing on the post-chorus.” “Sometimes people will come up to us and be like, ‘Yo, I loved your first records man. Back when you guys were underground.’ Then I always say, ‘Did you even listen to the lyrics of “Joints & Jam”?’. The fucking lyrics say, ‘We about mass appeal, no segregation / Got Black to Asian and Caucasian.’ If that doesn't tell you our intentions on our first record, of who we wanted to be, then you've missed the point.”

“Mi Gente” by J Balvin “This song is simply the leader in this genre. We decided with this new album, Translation, that we really wanted to look into that Latin sound more. We've got songs like “The Apl Song” where we're only speaking Spanish, there's traces of Latin music all the way throughout the Black Eyed Peas.” “Taki Taki” by DJ Snake is another great song that we want to compete with in this genre. It's friendly competition, but we're here to make something special. “Loco Contigo” as well.”

Taboo: “We wanted to tap into those Latin roots we have. I'm Native American and Mexican, Apl is from the Philippines and Will was raised in the Hispanic community of L.A. We've been making a similar sound in every album but now with songs like “RITMO” and “MAMACITA” we're diving right in.”

“Where Is The Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas “The future of music is up for grabs unless we as humans want to compete with the machines. It's about collaboration and it's about translating what's going on all these pockets of the world and fusing different genres. Kind of like social journalism through music.

“Everything that we make is on a computer, and it's not hard to synthesise a computer to do this shit. It's just as sophisticated as Bach or The Beatles, but the one thing a computer can't do is have a human perspective of what's going on in the world. A computer can't collaborate. A computer can't be open minded. The future of music is unfortunately the machine, just like a calculator is, but if we don't figure out better ways to do these things and share knowledge, we lose this battle.”

“You want a song that points to a good future? “Where Is The love?”

Taboo: “I will always agree with that statement.” “This song is always relevant and it's beautiful and sad at the same time. If anybody ever hits us up and is like, ‘We need a new version of that song,’ that means something fucked up is happening."

“I was feeling very upset the other day, in light of everything that's going on, and my manager was like, ‘You've got a song for all occasions Will. You've got “Where Is The Love?” when it's dark out, and you have “I Gotta Feeling” for when people get married and shit. You've got “Let's Get It Started” for every street party around the world, you've got “Pump It” for when your team is fighting back, and you've got “Shut Up” when you're going to break up with your girlfriend.’ The one thing we haven't got is a slow jam. Nobody has ever come up to me and said, ‘I made my daughter to “My Humps”.’

Translation is out now via RCA UK
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