Exclusive: Will.i.am on How He Got Mick Jagger and Jennifer Lopez for New Single

Black Eyed Peas architect to debut "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)" with J.Lo on American Music Awards tonight

November 20, 2011 10:00 AM ET
Will.i.am performs onstage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, September 23, 2011.
Will.i.am performs onstage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, September 23, 2011.
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel

Nothing is impossible in the world of Will.i.am. For the song "Mona Lisa Smile," a track featuring Nicole Scherzinger on his new solo album, #willpower, the French government opened the Louvre so he could record a guitar part at 2 a.m next to the actual Mona Lisa.

Yet, there was one thing even he thought was impossible, getting Mick Jagger for "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)," #willpower's lead single. And as Will explained to Rolling Stone in an exclusive interview during rehearsals for the American Music Awards, that pursuit of the impossible was the whole reason he went after Jagger.

"I went to play material for the label and Jimmy Iovine’s like, 'Yo, this is dope. Who are you gonna put on it?'," Will says. "I’m like, 'What are you talking about? It’s finished, it’s me.' So, he’s like, 'Oh, you don’t feature no one?'"

"You play your music and the first thing someone says, 'Who’s gonna be on it?' So I think of the hardest thing ever," he says. "And it happened, Mick Jagger. I just wanted to throw something out there that I thought could never be possible so they would stop asking me."

"T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)" also brought Iovine back to producing for the first time in decades. The Interscope chairman, who has worked with U2, Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks and many more, produced Jagger's vocals at Will's suggestion. "Jimmy’s like, 'Will.i.am, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones are like my Tribe Called Quest, my De La Soul, my N.W.A. I wanted to be like Mick when I was young,'" Will says.

It turns out, however, that Jagger and Iovine had never worked together, much to Will's surprise. So he convinced Iovine to come out of production retirement for Jagger's part of the song. "He produced Mick’s vocals, and this was the proudest moment of my life," Will says. "Winning a Grammy is cool, but the guy who helped you out – and then you got to see him execute one of his dreams – that’s just the dopest ever."

Iovine also contributed to the track by calling Jennifer Lopez, who will be performing tonight with Will when he unveils the song at the American Music Awards. For Will, debuting a solo song on a national stage with Lopez is very special. "I collaborate in the Peas all the time, but this is the first time I’ve ever done big collaborations with big-name artists on my solo projects," he says. "So it means a lot that J. Lo’s even considered performing with me, that’s dope. She’s great."

The song will be available on iTunes following the performance tonight.


Fall Music Preview: Will.i.am

• Will.i.am Organizing Concert in China for State Department

Black Eyed Peas Beat the Rain, Feel the Love in NYC's Central Park

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

More Song Stories entries »