It is great to see that Will.I.Am and his group The Black Eyed Peas since the departure of Fergie have come full circle returning to their hip hop roots. Putting out material like “Constant pt.1 pt.2”, “Back 2 Hip Hop” and “Dopeness” that is authentic and from the heart found on their new album Masters of the Sun Vol. 1. They are no longer artistically restrained to a formula that is just about mass appeal and commercial success. Now Will.I.Am and the group are in a position to be unique and provide social commentary much like they did when they first started back in 1988 as the group Atban Klann.
The Black Eyed Peas – Constant pt.1 pt.2 feat. Slick Rick
The Black Eyed Peas – Back 2 Hip Hop feat. Nas
The Black Eyed Peas – Dopeness feat. CL
Atban Klann consisted of Black Eyed Peas members Will.I.Am and Apl.De.Ap. The other member was their friend Dante Santiago. Atban Klann caught the eye of Eazy-E and was signed to his label Ruthless Records in 1992. They recorded the album Grass Roots which was never commercially released due to Eazy’s death in 1995. A single had been released however titled, “Puddles of H2O”.
Atban Klann – Puddles of H20
Dante was then replaced by Taboo and would become The Black Eyed Peas. Their first two albums, 1998’s Behind the Front and 2000’s Bridging the Gap were highly critically acclaimed. The group performed with live instrumentation and had an alternative sound, going against the grain on what was conventional. Examples of classic tracks from this era were “Joints & Jam”, “Weekends”, and “BEP Empire” produced none other than by DJ Premier.
The Black Eyed Peas – Joints & Jam feat. Ingrid Dupree
The Black Eyed Peas – Weekends feat. Esthero
The Black Eyed Peas – BEP Empire (prod. by DJ Premier)
During Black Eyed Peas’s run with Fergie as a commercial pop artist act Will.I.Am would produce for other artists outside the camp. On occasion he worked with artists and produced tracks that abandoned the pop electro sound and was authentic hip hop. The first example of this was “Keep It Bouncin”, a track from Too Short’s 2006 album Blow Your Whistle which also included Snoop Dogg. That same year Will.I.Am would produce several tracks off the Game’s album The Doctor’s Advocate including “Compton”. The following year he would work with Talib Kweli on the project Eardrum with the song “Hot Thing”.
Too Short – Keep It Bouncin feat. Snoop Dogg & Will.I.Am
The Game – Compton feat. Will.I.Am
Talib Kweli – Hot Thing feat. Will.I.Am
After 20 years The Black Eyed Peas are back in a position to do music that they love and have a passion for. Why they became hip hop artists in the first place. The sales are not the main priority. The music will connect with who it is meant to. As a hip hop music head it is always great to hear music that is not watered down and remains pure. Hopefully Will.I.Am will be active in producing authentic hip hop tracks for artists outside his camp as well.