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Black Eyed Peas Blender

Black Eyed Peas Blender

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Humpology to understand why Fergie gets more press attention than her bandmates, nor to appreciate why that makes the self-described "new kid" uncomfortable. As if the tabloids didn’t get enough mileage from her colorful past and her relationship with actor Josh Duhamel, the knives came out when she lost control of her bladder during a 2005 show in San Diego. It’s an incident she refuses to discuss. "Would you?" she asks, sinking into her chair.

NICE HUMPS!  The phunkadelic Black Eyed Peas take the cover of Blender March 2006. Read the full article after the jump and more pictures in the gallery! Peas out!

 

Black Eyed Peas

Blender March 2006

Even during the Christmas-party season, finding some­where to eat in Glasgow, Scotland, after 11 p.m. is no easy feat. The Black Eyed Peas had a table booked at an upmarket Indian restaurant for 10:30, but they’re running late. When will.i.am (William Adams), apl.de.ap (Allan Pineda) and Taboo (Jaime Gomez) finally arrive, the maitre d’ sees only three eccentrically dressed Americans with poor timing (Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson is coming along later). He says that the kitchen is closed.

The grim specter of British fast food looms until the manager walks up and his eyes almost pop through his glasses. "Aren’t youse Black Eyed Peas?" he asks in a thick Glaswegian accent. When they answer in the affirmative he asks them to take a seat and bustles off. Five minutes lat­er, the kitchen has miraculously reopened and the pesky late arrivals have become the guests of honor.

Ten years ago, Apl and Taboo tell Blender, the band were so poor they would sometimes flee a restaurant without paying. Even four years ago, being a Black Eyed Pea would merit special privileges only in eater­ies run by aficionados of backpacker hip-hop. But in 2005 they are big in Glasgow—­they are big virtually everywhere—and fame is still enough of a novelty for them to find it hilarious. Over a banquet of Indian food, Will jokes about the manager’s sud­den change of heart. "Hey, buddy! Meet my wife! You wanna sex her? Sex her, please! Where is the love? Right here, brother!"

The following evening, the Black Eyed Peas play the 2,500-seat Carling Academy Glasgow, the latest date in a neverending tour that began back in 2003 and will final­ly wind up at worldwide festivals this sum­mer. No PBS producer could assemble a more convincing multicultural cast—a black man, a white girl, a Mexican, a Fil­ipino—and no A&R executive could con­trive a sound that hits so many of pop’s sweet spots. During their tireless two-hour set, the Peas appropriate a Guns N’ Roses riff and Michael Jackson bassline here, a hook from 50 Cent and Kelis there. At one point they even pay their respects to local heroes Franz Ferdinand: "I say Glasgow! You say Glasgow! I say take me out!"

The Black Eyed Peas’ cheerful, cartoonish approach, far removed from most hip-hop’s realness orthodoxy, has made them the world’s favorite good-time rap­pers, and Will one of the industry’s most in-demand songwriters and producers. Cross­over superstars from Kanye West to Diddy sing their praises. Radio programmers and Fortune 500 marketing veeps take comfort in their upbeat idealism. Come-together anthem "Where Is the Love?", featuring Justin Timberlake, was a global phenome­non in 2003. The following year, "Let’s Get Retarded" (tactfully renamed "Let’s Get It Started") burned itself into the brains of couch potatoes as the NBA’s playoff theme. Their 2003 album, Elephunk, sold more than 7 million copies worldwide. Last year’s follow-up, Monkey Business, has already passed the 4 million mark.

With ubiquity comes hostility, though. Never beloved by critics, one Slate.com writer recently branded their T&A-meets-TRL single "My Humps" "so bad as to veer toward evil." No televised awards show or corporate event felt complete, it seemed, without the Peas hyperactively bounding around the stage. In October, Saturday Night Live spoofed the Best Buy commercial in which the Peas pop up everywhere from a commuter bus to a living room. Recog­nizing that this scenario increasingly seemed less like a cute metaphor than a very real possibility, SNL portrayed the band as shameless commercial whores ("No no no no/Don’t phunk with Pfizer," went one venomously hilarious refrain, to the tune of "Don’t Phunk With My Heart").

After seeing the sketch, Will irnmediately called up his label, Interscope, to dis­cuss their new image problem.

"I think the problem is people don’t know who the **** we are," he reflects, hinting at the turbulent saga of drugs, alco­hol, depression and heartbreak that lies behind their current success. "They don’t know what we’re about and why we make the music we make, because we’re the only group like this."

—-

When William Adams was growing up in the projects of East Los Angeles, his mother wouldn’t let him play with the oth­er kids. "I’d be like, ‘But everyone’s playing over there!’" he remembers with a husky chuckle. "She’d be like, ‘So what? I don’t want you joining in what they playing. You make something up and make them come over and play with you.’"

Like the other men in the Black Eyed Peas, Will didn’t grow up with his father, whom he dismisses as his "sperm donor." His mother raised him to be different: Being regarded as an artistic oddball with an eccentric dress sense gave him a "ghet­to free pass" from the gangbangers. His was a multicultural existence from the first grade: He lived in a mostly Mexican neigh­borhood, attended an all-black church and got bused to a white-dominated school.

Like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, he sketches out the racial geography of his school. "The black people hung out by the lunch tables, the Mexicans hung out by the bathroom, the white people hung out in their cars, the Asian people stood next to the lockers … I would always wander be­tween the different sections. If I didn’t go to that school, Black Eyed Peas wouldn’t be what it is. I don’t think we would be able to relate to every country on the planet."

One country they relate to more than most is the Philippines. Until he was 14, Apl lived there with his mom; his absent father was a U.S. serviceman. Via a spon­sorship program, an American by the name of Joe Ben Hudgens sent him a dollar a day and invited Apl to the States to see an eye specialist about his nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary movement of the eyes (it’s still not cured, but it’s under con­trol). Hudgens ended up formally adopting Apl, and brought him to live in L.A. "Sun­set is always the saddest time for me, ’cause that was the time I left," the rapper says.

Hudgens’s roommate was Will’s uncle, and the two boys became friends, even though at first Apl couldn’t speak a word of English. "Will is open-minded. He didn’t care how I dressed or what I looked like."

The two teenagers started hanging out at a club called Balistyx, where Will would enter rhyme battles while Apl breakdanced. With another friend, Mookie, they formed a group called Atban Klann. They signed to Eazy-E’s Ruthless label while still in high school, but when the N.W.A founder died three years later, so did Atban Klann’s prospects, and their debut album was shelved. "We were like, ‘Damn, we thought this was going to be easy,’" says Apl.

As Atban Klann mutated into the Black Eyed Peas, Mookie was replaced by Taboo, another figure on the Balistyx scene. Like his new bandmates, he was a misfit, the only Mexican in his barrio to wear an Africa medallion and MC Hammer pants. "They’d say, ‘Why are you dancing like a black dude?’" He jiggles in his chair and acts out every anecdote as if he can’t stop dancing even while sitting down.

Taboo jokes that his first job in the entertainment industry was as part of the parades at Disneyland. His role was to walk behind the horses shoveling up their manure. "I was picking up ****, but I wasn’t the ****," he says, roaring with laughter.

On their first album, 1998′s Behind the Front, Black Eyed Peas made A Tribe Called Quest look like Tha Dogg Pound. Resem­bling not so much rappers as the propri­etors of a whole-foods store, they wore long hair, natural fabrics and eyeglasses. Under­ground hip-hop heads flocked to their socially conscious lyrics and vibrant live shows; most record buyers did not. Their second album, Bridging the Gap, featured
Macy Gray, De La Soul and Mos Def, and sold fewer copies than their debut.

Dejected, the trio took a break to plan their next move. That, says Will, was when the trouble really started. "I remember when I was with my ex-girlfriend, I’d be like, ‘Look at that homeless person over there. I wonder what decisions  he made to get to that point?’  I think if we didn’t get through that whole period then we would probably all be homless, metally ****ed-up alcoholics, with no way out.

—-

When Blender asks up his bandmates, he calls Fergie the body, Taboo the blood, himself the head and Apl the heart. "We connect like Voltron," says Apl, wearing a preppy diamond-patterned sweater and a dazzling, toothy smile.
While the Black Eyed Peas were on hiatus, Apl heard some bad news from the Philippines: His younger brother had com­mitted suicide. One of Apl’s priorities had been to earn money to send back home, and he felt that he’d failed. "It kinda took away my whole purpose of going to Amer­ica, y’know?"

At the same time, he split with his girl­friend, which made him even more depressed. He became addicted to crystal methamphetamine, staying up for three days, then sleeping for the next three. He paid for his habit with the $100,000 he had received from licensing a Black Eyed Peas song to a Dr. Pepper commercial.

So, you’re saying Dr. Pepper funded your meth addiction?

"Yeah," he says, grinning.

One spring day in 2002, Will and the Black Eyed Peas’ tour manager, Polo Moli­na, drove to Apl’s house and told him they were taking him thrift-store shopping. Instead they drove him to a rehab clinic in Santa Monica. "I was so mad," says Apl. "’I can’t believe you guys put me here! I’m not ready for this ****!’ Now that I look back, it was just out of love."

Apl slipped back into drugs but returned to rehab a few months later and kicked them for good. Meanwhile, Taboo was having his own problems with alcohol. He would go drinking in Hollywood clubs with Will and act like an obnoxious loud­mouth. "Even though I was sleeping on my mom’s couch, I was trying to make myself look bigger than I was." He’d brag to his friends, "’I'm gonna sell millions of records.’ And they’d go, ‘OK, little buddy.’"

Will’s problem was different. "I cheat­ed," he says, his voice becoming quiet. "The girl that helped me get here … I ruined that." His nine-year relationship disintegrated amid infidelity on both sides. "I feel bad about that, still to this day."

Will is tucked into the corner of a Glas­gow coffee shop. He’s a generous, thought­ful conversationalist with a gift for mim-ickry. Impersonating his bandmates’ voic­es, he reenacts a typical argument from the Black Eyed Peas’ dark days. ‘"Dude, you got ****ing speed problems. And you need to stop drinking, dude.’ And they said, ‘Well **** you! You think you know everything, but that don’t make you better than any­body. You make ****ing bad decisions too. You’re just too ****ing scared to do drugs.’" He shrugs. "That hit home."

One song would turn the Black Eyed Peas’ lives around. In August 2001 the death of R&B singer Aaliyah in a plane crash prompted Will to reflect on what he had. He started on a song called "Give Thanks," which would inspire him to write "Where Is the Love?" Then came 9/11.

Until then, he had been writing his usual elaborate wordplay. "To my lyrical skills crack you in the grills, you’re ****ing with a nigga named Wills for reals,’" he demonstrates. "Then 9/11 came, and who gives a **** about my grills and skills? We got to strike people’s emotions, we got to hit them right here." He thumps his fist against his chest.

That November, he called a band meet­ing at their studio in Burbank. They knew that rappers’ career lifespans were short, and that their next album could be their last. "That was the most important month of our entire lives."
So the Peas attacked Elephunk with fresh purpose. One day, they needed a female vocalist to duet on "Shut Up," and a mutual friend hooked them up with an old acquaintance from the clubs: Stacy Fer­guson. The first day she showed up at the studio, she could tell Apl was on meth. She recognized the symptoms all too well.

—-

Fergie has some videos of herself, aged 6, grabbing cereal boxes from the cupboard and acting out commercials. The daughter of Catholic schoolteachers, she was so hyperactive that doctors wanted to put her on Ritalin until her mom vetoed the idea. Through dance school, she found an agent and voiceover work, providing the voices for Lucy and Sally in Peanuts car­toons. From 1984 to 1989, she spent sum­mers performing chart hits on the TV show Kids, Incorporated. All that time she was a straight-A student, building up her own college fund. She was even a spelling bee champion. "I’ve lost a lot of brain cells since then," she says, and laughs with a bit­ter, mirthless edge.

In her teens, Fergie dabbled with members of the Mexican gangs in L.A.’s Hacienda Heights, but her real troubles came long after she’d left home. Wild Orchid, the all-girl R&B trio she formed when she was 20, were being pushed by their label in a teen-pop direction she hat­ed. The harder they pushed, the more she drifted into the underground club scene. After a bad breakup, she plunged into a crystal meth habit. "Once you get into the drug world, you don’t realize how far you’re getting until you’re that far gone."

She stopped eating and pretended to be bulimic to explain away her weight loss, even attending self-help groups to keep up the pretense. She blew all of her savings. She began hearing voices and looking for wiretaps. One day someone offered her a muffin and she realized he thought she was homeless. Rock bottom came in 2001, when she took refuge in a Korean church on Wilshire Boulevard, convinced the FBI were after her.

After that, she says, a higher power intervened. "I, uh, I had a conversation with God, basically. I don’t know how to interpret this, but he said, ‘I’ve given you this beautiful gift and you’re throwing it away.’" So Fergie moved back to her mom’s, began taking hypnotherapy ses­sions and went off the drugs cold turkey.

Fergie decided to leave Wild Orchid after their last round of commitments. One of them was a radio show in Minneapolis that also featured the Black Eyed Peas, whom she had long admired. In the corri­dor afterwards she struck up a friendship with Will.

Even when she sang on "Shut Up," however, nobody put two and two togeth­er. Will helped her make a solo album and shopped her around to the likes of Puff Daddy and Pharrell Williams. The band’s old backing singer, Kim Hill, had left, so Fergie provided vocals wherever they were needed. Eventually Interscope Records CEO Jimmy lovine stepped in and sug­gested that Fergie become a full-time member. "They always had a girl singing the hooks," says lovine. "I just said, ‘Why don’t you lock this down?’"

While all this was going on, the Black Eyed Peas were finessing "Where Is the Love?" "I never thought that song was going to be played on the radio," Will insists, rather implausibly. "If I did, I prob­ably wouldn’t have written that line calling the CIA terrorists."

With its chorus from Justin Timber-lake, an ex-boyfriend of Fergie’s, "Where Is the Love?" made the Black Eyed Peas famous in a single stroke. Will says he always planned to be big—he points to lines on the Peas’ first album: "Under­ground niggas don’t be thinkin’/About going continental like Lincoln"—but to the fans who filed their Peas albums alongside Common and Dilated Peoples, this was the biggest betrayal since LL Cool J released "I Need Love." "Rappers rapped about those kind of [sellout] groups," Will admits with a throaty laugh. "I used to rap about those kind of groups. I understand."

Taboo is more bullish. "I don’t wanna be living at home with my mom and freestyling in the backyard ’cause I wanna be a purist. Forget that ****. I’m selling out? I’m selling out arenas, mother****er!"

—-

Over dinner at the Indian restaurant, Fergie asks Blender for the latest celebrity gossip. "I’m not allowed to read tabloids anymore," she says. "They’re bad for my mental health."

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Humpology to understand why Fergie gets more press attention than her bandmates, nor to appreciate why that makes the self-described "new kid" uncomfortable. As if the tabloids didn’t get enough mileage from her colorful past and her relationship with actor Josh Duhamel, the knives came out when she lost control of her bladder during a 2005 show in San Diego. It’s an incident she refuses to discuss. "Would you?" she asks, sinking into her chair.

In Europe, says Will, fans shout "Fer­gie! Fergie!" When they played in the Philippines, the country’s president sat in the front row and hundreds of proud Fil­ipinos roared "Apl! Apl!"

Where do they shout "Will! Will!"?

Adams taps his head. "That’s not what I’m interested in. Not right now."

In fact, the whole industry seems to be shouting his name. Nominated for a Song of the Year Grammy for co-writing John Legend’s "Ordinary People," the confessed workaholic’s list of clients includes Carlos Santana, Diddy, Sting and Earth, Wind & Fire. If he can get studio time in Glasgow later tonight, he plans to write a song for Kelly Rowland, a rap for Timberlake and a beat for Snoop.

"I knew Will would be a great produc­er from the first day I met him," says Jim­my lovine. "It’s what you hear in Dr. Ore’s records, or Pharrell’s, or Kanye West’s— you hear great record-making, records that sound different from everyone else’s."

"Will’s not afraid to have fun with a song, to be … whimsical," says John Leg­end. Will finds songwriting easy; in the hotel prior to our interview he wrote one for Shakira. He came up with the idea for "My Humps" one lunchtime while waiting for a burrito behind a woman with "the biggest butt I’ve ever seen in my life." He wrote the song that day.

"My Humps," however, is far from typ­ical. Will has an articulate theory on every­thing from Kanye West’s infamous telethon outburst ("I’m sure George Bush does love black people with a **** of a lot of money") to why Luke Skywalker might be a terror­ist ("How many people died just because one dude said, ‘Hey I’m gonna run my plane into the Death Star!’?"). Some day he plans to make a solo album, but "I wouldn’t sell records because of the things I would want to talk about. You know when you have a book and you say, To, you need to read this book.’ The Celestine Prophecy, Con­versations With God, The Da Vinci Code. My solo record is gonna feel like that."

Meanwhile, Fergie intends to finish her solo album, Apl plans to make a record in Tagalog and English, and Taboo wants to record a Spanish album, "because my Latin community deserves it." But individually and collectively, they have much bigger plans too: acting, technology, real estate, maybe a chain of hotels. "You keep on rein­venting yourself," explains Taboo. "I don’t wanna be one of them old rappers that’s try­ing to be in the limelight."

Will thinks the Black Eyed Peas have a mission. "We give people the tools to feel better about their lives when ****’s all ****ed up and you don’t know what you’re going to do with your life. I want to contin­ue to do that for people, but at the same time there’s a bigger goal. I just don’t know what it is yet."

Just Jared on Facebook
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Posted to: Black Eyed Peas, Fergie

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  • Laura

    Yay BEP love! thanks for posting this :)

  • Frangry

    Fergie is DISGUSTING.

  • Jacquie

    I think that’s a good photo of the band. I love how they asked her about the "depends" incident!

  • Anonymous

    Just Jared! I love your take on this: “Give Peas a chance”What! "Fergie is disgusting"?Common, Give Fergie a break. There are more dumb singers with no talent yet they keep working their way to the top because they are notorious publicity seekers and tabloid magnets.Go Black Eye Peas!

  • Susan

    The Peas are awesome! I have no idea why others put Fergie down. I think she’s great! Thanks Jared.

  • Kat

    BEP are way cool! I met them a few years back, after their show at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA when they opened for Macy Grey. Fergie was not with them on this tour, I think it was before she joined the band.They were all really cool, especially Will I remember was so down-to-Earth. He didn’t act like he was all that. He has a way of making you feel comfortable in his space. Some may think this was his way before BEP became famous, because they were relatively unknown at the time. I like to think that is just his way, the way he will always be no matter how much fame and fortune he amasses.I did not know the details about the lives of the members of BEP. This story was very informative and makes me realize all the more why these guys were (and I’ll bet still are) so real, warm, and welcoming to people they’d never met. Judging from this story they’ve managed to maintain their sense(s) of humor too.It’s really, really cool to know they’ve "made it." They are not sell-outs. They are making their music. Music is not an organization with rules and regulations. Music is free expression and follows no lead. Just like BEP.Viva la BEP!

  • anniie

    Fergie is very talented, unlike many of the bimbos who are out there. Singing the national anthem showed her real raw talent.

  • Patrick

    Stacy Ferguson is a swee, talented, vulnerable person who knows how to work it and who loves performing. Be happy for her. She has worked her ass off. She’s really savvy actually.

  • jamms

    Fergie was amazing singing the national anthem last week. she is very talented. BTW for anyone calling her sleazy or disgusting, why is madonna who used to nearly masturbate with a crucifix, and now in her 40′s sticks her tongue in the mouths of two young singers who are young enough to be her kids somehow ok and classy? Not to m ention Fergie’s voice can blow her out of the water!And Maddona the hypocrite won’t let her own kids even watch sesame street.Fergie deserves all that is coming, which is a great singing career.

  • Lara

    the Black eyed Peas are over

  • zeynep

    bep is over too

  • http://www.edenfantasys.com/dildos/ dildos

    Oh! This is, probably, the longest interview ever posted on Jared=) I’m glad it’s with sexy Fergie! Thanks a lot!

  • http://ksb5blender.cz.cc Gustavo Schoebel

    thanks !! very helpful post!

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