Taken from the BLAG book 'Hip Hop'
Tell me the history of Black Eyed Peas.
“Like real quick or take like an hour?”
“Okay, before we were Black Eyed Peas, Apl and myself were signed to Ruthless Records as a group called Atban Klann, and we never came out because we were on a predominately gangsta label. We were the only group besides Blood Abraham that wasn’t gangsta and they didn’t know how to promote and market us - which is a blessing - so we never came out.
“Then we started Black Eyed Peas in 1995. The first label didn’t want to sign us. They said, ‘Well, The Roots, they don’t really sell records, and the only reason De La and Tribe sell records is because they’re De La and Tribe, so what makes you think you guys are gonna sell records? And The Pharcyde doesn’t sell records either, and they’re from LA, so what makes you think you’re gonna sell records in your hometown?’ They didn’t really believe in it, so in 1996 we shopped again, and they still didn’t really want to sign us. Then in the beginning of 1997 we shopped, and we had like ‘Joints And Jam’, ‘Fallin’ Up’, ‘Head Bobs’, ‘The Way U Make Me Feel and ‘Positivity’ - we shopped those songs and they still didn’t want to sign us, so then we was like ‘F*** it, why don’t you want to sign us? There must be something wrong?’ So, we went out to colleges, like round LA, UCLA, USC, Northbridge, Long Beach... all the colleges... and at Loyola Marymount we met our keyboard and guitarist, and recorded even more songs there because the keyboardist was a teacher there, and he used to let us use the studio for free, and we used to sneak in and record more songs. Then we met the guy that directs all our videos, Brian Beletic there at that college. And I was like ‘Let’s just keep doing these shows at colleges, because all the people at these colleges are eventually going to be the people running the world.’ Do you know what I mean? Colleges are like preschool to the world, so because of that there’s people who are at college who intern at record companies and word got around ‘Oh I’m gonna see Black Eyed Peas at Dragonfly.’ We were playing club dates in Hollywood, LA, where we created a buzz and a following of college kids and Interscope came knocking on our door again and they caught the vapours...like Biz Markie.”
What makes Black Eyed Peas different from other hip hop groups including philosophies and lyrics?
“Well, our personalities, and because we let our personalities shine through our music, and that’s the first thing we do; there really is no gimmick or image. We’re not like [Will screws up his face and does impressions of various people], ‘Oh we the hardcore kids outta LA,’ ‘cos everything outta LA is gangsta, so ‘we the hardcore motherf***ers you know,’ you know keeping it real with what the streets’ talkin’ about.’ Like you know, ‘We for the ladies you know,’ ‘cos the ladies want to hear some love hip hop too so...’ or ‘we’re the first hip hop band outta LA!’ You know we don’t really want to put clichés there, you know? We’re just us, and because we put our personalities first and we try to make our audience get to know us that’s what makes us different; because you know I’m not Black Thought and Taboo’s not Q-Tip, he’s Taboo, and through our personal taste and influences that makes the Peas. Cool! That was a good answer huh?” [Laughing]
Continue reading in the BLAG book 'Hip Hop'
Photography by Sarah J. Edwards