As individuals, we're misfits," says Fergie, the sultry female singer of the Black Eyed Peas. "Together, we're like one big misfit. People are always questioning who the hell we are." It's the day after the group's futuristic May 6 performance on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Chilling out in a small, sparsely furnished room at Center Staging in Burbank, Calif., she and fellow members of the multiracial group-Will.i.am, Taboo and apl.de.ap-resemble a live version of a United Colors of Benetton ad.
Fergie is dressed in black-and-white Capri-length leggings set off by a hot pink shirt and a sharp pair of black ankle-strapped heels from her self-titled shoe line. Sitting next to her on the sofa is apl.de.ap in a lemon V-neck T-shirt, white-framed shades and his signature Mohawk. Opting instead for blue-green glasses, Taboo sports a black leather vest, an eye-catching cross on a silver chain and several impressive arm tattoos.
With his close-cropped hair hidden under a red plaid cap, Will.i.am sits astride a black chair in a striped shirt and gray jeans tucked into black combat boots. He's pondering the question Fergie just answered: Who are the Black Eyed Peas?
"When something is different, authentically unique, it's always going to be questioned," the Peas' mastermind says. "By default, people aren't going to understand us because there aren't that many like us."
Following the multiplatinum pop success of 2003's "Elephunk" and then 2005's "Monkey Business," the Black Eyed Peas stood accused by fans of selling out: blunting its cutting-edge, live band hip-hop in favor of lightweight pop crossover fare. As the June 9 release date for their fifth studio album, "The E.N.D." (will.i.am music/Interscope), approaches, some of the same criticism has cropped up. But what's not in question is the exploding popularity of "Boom Boom Pow"-the first No. 1 for this band of creative misfits.