Black Eyed Peas Back In 'Business'
Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.The Black Eyed Peas have made a habit of showing up everywhere. From TV commercials to the Grammy Awards, the quartet's upbeat blend of rap and pop has kept it in the spotlight nearly two years after the release of "Elephunk" -- a title that has sold 2.6 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
But for Will.i.am (William Adams), the Peas' lead rapper, the omnipresence means the group has to work even harder to promote its new album, "Monkey Business," released June 7 on A&M/Interscope.
"When you have a whole bunch of songs on top 40 radio, there's no mystery anymore," he says, adding that advances in Internet and cell phone technology will allow the group to "be daring and create the staple of how [promotion] is done."
The new 15-track disc has gotten a strong send-off with the first single, "Don't Phunk With My Heart," which is No. 2 on Billboard's Pop 100 chart.
"Monkey Business" has been promoted with listening parties in American Eagle Outfitters stores nationwide, a preorder campaign with iTunes and TV appearances, and will be furthered by a Peas tour that includes opening for the Rolling Stones.
Though the initial release will be a single disc, A&M president Ron Fair (who is an executive producer on "Monkey Business") said a later DualDisc will include "crazy stuff from Will.i.am."
"The feedback from live audiences supercharged [Will.i.am]," Fair says. "He steamed into the new album with tremendous enthusiasm and sense of purpose."
The album was recorded in two- and three-month spurts throughout 2004 while the group was touring, promoting Rock the Vote and raising money for tsunami relief efforts.
"All these things are happening around 'Monkey Business,' " Will.i.am says. "Do you sit around and wait and get all selfish? ... When it's moving, you've got to keep moving."
With the surfer riff on "Pump It" -- the song featured in Best Buy's current TV campaign -- the Indian-inspired strings on "Don't Phunk With My Heart" and the reggae styling of "Dum Diddly," the sounds on the album are as diverse as its guests, who include James Brown and Sting.
"Hip-hop was built off [Brown's] backbone, as far as the grooves," Will.i.am says.
The Sting collaboration, which builds a new song around his "Englishman in New York," came about through a growing relationship between the singer and the group, who performed together in Germany. Will.i.am says Sting also taught the Peas to meditate.
Justin Timberlake, who appeared on the Peas' first hit, "Where Is the Love?," returns on "My Style," and folk singer Jack Johnson lends his guitar to "Gone Going Gone," a song about success and materialism, while Talib Kweli and John Legend are featured on "Like That."
Amid all the promotions for "Monkey Business," Will.i.am is producing Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson's upcoming solo album. Group members Jaime "Taboo" Gomez and Allan "apl.de.ap" Pineda have solo releases coming as well. However, Fair calls press reports of the group splitting "completely erroneous."
Though the Peas have a strong fan base, the Stones tour dates offer them a chance to introduce themselves to a new audience.
"We got a new frontier," Will.i.am says, "to prove it ain't just a bunch of songs—that there's talent, there's a band and there's credibility and there's musicianship and we love to perform. That outlook keeps us hungry."
Excerpted from the June 11, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.
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