Pop & Circumstance: Black Eyed Peas simmering outBy Allison Berger | July 14th, 2011 | 2 comments
Breathe a sigh of relief or shed a tear: the Black Eyed Peas have announced an indefinite hiatus.
It was at their Staffordshire concert last week that Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson, BEP front woman and Dr. Pepper Cherry enthusiast, told the crowd that the band would be taking a break from making music together. “This is the last time we’re going to be in England for a long time,” she told the fan-filled arena on July 6. Shortly after, producer Will.i.am tweeted “The @Bep will take a break after the beginning … just like we did from monkey business to the e.n.d…but it doesn’t mean we stop creating.” Their last sabbatical lasted a whopping four years — quite a while in the world of pop music, no doubt. Think about it: four years ago, our Lady Gaga was barely a blip on the top 40 radar.
Back in the day (and we mean 1988, not 2008), the core of the Black Eyed Peas was formed by 8th graders William Adams (will.i.am) and Allan Pineda (apl.de.ap). They were just kids then, chillin’ and rappin’ until 1995, when they decided to create a true persona for themselves as “the Black Eyed Pods” and then “the Black Eyed Peas” (make your mind already, right?) with a musical steez that was the polar opposite of typical Los Angeles “gangsta rap.” Members came and went, with the permanent addition of Jaime Gomez (yup, that’s Taboo’s real name).
In 2001, Wil.i.am decided that it was time to appeal to the masses. “Wild Orchid” singer and former drug addict Fergie was asked to lend a female voice. Fun fact: the first woman the group considered for the gig was another reality TV pop star, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls — Scherzinger was forced to decline because of her then-contract with failed girl band Eden’s Crush. Thank goodness it worked out this way. What would our lives be like without PCD hits like “Don’t Cha?!” (Sarcasm, friends).
In 2003, “Elephunk” was released. Goodbye backpack-rapper cred, hello top 40 charts, No. 1 hits, Grammy awards and yeah, you better believe it, the Super Bowl.
“Monkey Business” came next and then: the break. “The E.N.D.” showed up almost half a decade later, and gave us mind-blowingly repetitive singles like “Boom Boom Pow,” “Imma Be,” “Rock That Body,” and the bar mitzvah hit of this generation, “I Gotta Feeling.” Thank you for that one, Peas. What seemed like a quick sesh in the studio provided fans with “The Beginning,” which was released just a year and a half after “The E.N.D.” Wait, that’s not how it works!
From legit hip-hop band to masters of pop top 40, the BEP have morphed their visions, looks, voices and prerogatives. They’ve been parodied on SNL, featured on “Oprah” (Will.i.am was generous enough to pay off an entire family’s collected debt) and launched various clothing and fragrance lines, individually. Where do you see the Peas on the charts four years from now, in the year 2015? Promoting an album called “The I.N.B.E.T.W.E.E.N?”
Said Will.i.am in a 2010 NPR interview, “Black Eyed Peas is a chameleon group. If I played you ‘I Got a Feeling,’ and then played you ‘Pump It,’ and then played you ‘Let’s Get It Started,’ and then played you ‘My Humps,’ and then played you ‘OMG’ by Usher, you would never think it came from the same group.”
But, is that even a good thing?
Allison Berger is a Philadelphia-based writer and a pop music columnist for Reverb. Check out more of her writing here.