Will.I.Am, Apl.de.ap, Taboo and Fergie Ferg, are the funnynamed crew who make up the Black Eyed Peas. The band has always aspired to create, 'the real hip hop' in the mould of KRS1. So you'll never hear them singing odes to women's behinds, bling or Benz's.
'We had a dream to become pioneers of a music that is positive.' Says Jaime 'Taboo' Gomez over the phone from Cedar Falls, Iowa. 'We come from the era of Native Tongues, Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. They were more on a movement about positive vibes, dancing and people having a good time. Bling bling has always been around. We decided to showcase that it's all hip hop. And you've got to respect people for what they do. I like 50 cent. I'm an Eminem fan, but at the same time I'm a Black Eyed Peas fan, I'm into Roots, Talib Kweli and Mos Def. I appreciate hip hop as a culture. I don't shoot anybody for their vision or their outlook on how they're going to make music. We may choose to do things different, but we respect all forms of hip hop. It's our culture and we want to keep it like that. If you remember back in the days when we did have Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, you also had NWA, Above The Law, DJ Quick and all the gangsta rap, but it was all hip hop.'
'Definitely our sound is not your usual formula.' Apl.de.ap clarifies things. 'We're influenced by a lot of different rhythms, from AfroCuban to latin jazz and dancehall. We just incorporate what we're surrounded by. We're more into the experimental in a positive note. We like shaking asses, if you know what I mean.'
But the radical success of the Black Eyed Peas has hinged on their ability to make generation MTV shake their asses and think at the same time. Recently the band rolled out on Senator Chloroform, John Kerry's campaign trail, in their bid to rock the vote and unseat Bush.
'Yeah, we've been doing that.' Says Taboo. 'Campaigning around, trying to let the kids in America, and all over the world, know that we have a voice. And even though we didn't win we got five million more voters to come out and vote. A lot of young people came out and supported the fact that we need a new president.'
'Campaigning is just like MC battles.' Says Apl. 'Our main thing is to get young kids to pay attention to what's going on in social life. Kerry was saying something significant to us, so it was easy to associate ourselves with that. But we're more social than political.'
'I've never been a Bush supporter.' Says Taboo. 'I never supported his father either. I've always been against that upbringing and that mentality. Maybe it's because I'm a minority in an American world, a predominantly white world. I'm a Mexican kid from East LA. I was never into politics, I did not know about politics growing up. All I knew was the neighbourhood, breakdancing and family. I didn't care who won the election. I didn't vote. But now it affects me. I am in a different income tax bracket. I have a son. And my opinion matters.'
Apl is philosophical about Bush's reelection. 'Well you know, things happen for a reason.' He says. 'Now I just leave it up to God. We did our little mission. Next time we can learn from it and try harder.'
At the same time as being vehemently antiBush and America's excursion in Iraq, Black Eyed Peas have also done a series of promotional gigs for Hummer motor vehicles. The American army ride.
'I know what you're going to say...' Taboo cuts in.
Promoting gas guzzling war machines?
'Military blah blah, yadda yadda. I guess it's a double standard in people's eyes. But you've got to have a certain medium when you get to our level. There are always going to be people like yourself who pick at it. You have to find a medium with everything in life. You can't make everyone happy all the time. But you got to learn to live with it. When people bring those situations out, you have to learn to live with those punches. You have to face it. Of course you want to pull that out. You want to find dirt. As positive and progressive as Black Eyed Peas is, what's their downfall? What makes them hypocrites? But in actuality that's cool because it allows us to let you know that we are human beings. We have to make hard choices.' He pauses a moment. 'Actually, I appreciate that question. You're finding little things about BEP that people aren't going to like, but journalists must do that.'
Apl is more direct. 'Contradiction?! No, of course not. That's just having a business sense. We live in a corporate world. And that's the business part of it. This is our job and we never change our music. And realistically, I'd like to own a Hummer. We're young cats and it's a cool car. You got to have your business sense in this industry. I don't see nothing bad with Hummer. It was a good exchange, and... why not?'
I guess that's when you know you've made it. When big business wants you just the way you are.
'It gets weird, you know?' He agrees. 'Once you get popular you get more free things. And when you go down, you go down hard.
'When we were doing the first two albums, it just seemed so unreal to me how people go fuckin' ten million platinum [sell ten million records]. And I was like, that would never happen to us, inside my head, you know? We're just a hip hop band, working hard touring. And when it started happening, it was shocking, like wow, people at the hotels waiting before we even get there. I don't even know what hotel we're going to be in, but they're waiting. Sometimes it's a good feeling, sometimes it's weird. To me I see it as a reward. This is our third album. We all went through a tough time making this album; drug addiction, infidelities and stuff like that. But making this album got us through that darkness. It's cathartic, like God is really looking out for me.'
But nowadays you can't even run down to the Seven Eleven to get a coke?
'Yeah, sometimes you try and make a sneak run to get some liquor, at like 2 in the morning. And people are like, hey Black Eyed Peas, pickin' up more liquor. You know what I mean, like: Oh he's buying Rizla... '
Despite being prolific, positive and massively popular around the globe, the Black Eyed Peas don't profess to have all the answers.
'Sometimes you're going to say the good shit and sometimes you fuck it up.' Taboo laughs. 'That's what being human is all about. That's the whole thing about Black Eyed Peas, we're not afraid to make a joke out of ourselves. If you take yourself too seriously you start losing touch with being human.'
Which South African artists would you like to collaborate with?
'It may sound a little ignorant,' Taboo admits. 'But I haven't really heard any South African music. The only person I heard that came from South Africa, and was meaningful here in the States, was Nelson Mandela. And he doesn't do music. We're not aware of a lot of stuff going on down there. But if you give me a few names maybe I'll go to the CD shop and do some research.'
What can we expect from the gig?
'We definitely support the breakdancing aspect because that's where we come from. We have a certain section in our show where we dance and we invite local BBoys and Bgirls up on stage to boogie with us. What else can you expect? Hyperkinetic energy from the three MCs and the lovely singing of Miss Fergie Ferg. Also we're very animated on stage when it comes to spontaneity and improvisation. We like to improvise a lot. We have a live four piece band. We also like to involve the crowd a lot. We like to get into the audience. Stage dive, mosh pit, crowd surfing all that. We're a very animated group and we're very energetic on stage.'Score tickets to the gig from the M&G – work it out –