Black Eyed Peas Bring Phunk - Rolling Stone
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Black Eyed Peas Bring Phunk

After several delays, hip-hop trio to release third album

It’s been almost three years since soulful hip-hop trio Black Eyed
Peas released Bridging the Gaps, a vocal tour de force
featuring guest spots from Macy Gray, Mos Def, Wyclef Jean and
more. It wasn’t supposed to take so long for the follow-up to hit
the streets — but finally, in early May, Elephunk will
arrive in stores.

Work on the album started in the summer of 2001, when the
hip-hop ensemble spent two months working in the tranquility of
Bodega Bay — just north of San Francisco. They left the studio to
return to L.A. on the morning of September 11th. After that, of
course, everything changed.

“We had the vocal direction of our songs down,” says BEP
frontman Wil.I.Am. “But after September 11th, we switched the
direction a bit, edged it up a whole lot. Refined it.”

While in Bodega Bay, Will and bandmates and Taboo,
would drive down to San Francisco on Thursday nights and host a
freestyle jam where jazz musicians and funksters would back up
whichever MCs took the stage. One guy brought a tuba, and “This
Smells Like Funk” was born. “That’s where we got the album title
from,” says Will. “He was sounding like an elephant.”

But aside from “Funk,” no other songs from the Bodega Bay
sessions made it onto the album. When the initial shock of the Twin
Towers tragedy had subsided, the group returned to a studio to
record a new batch of songs. The resulting record now features
guests including Blink-182’s Travis Barker and Papa Roach’s Jacoby

Shaddix appears on “Anxiety,” a topic that Will says is often
swept under the carpet. “I’ve been having anxiety issues since
1993,” he says. “I have panic attacks on stage sometimes. I start
gagging. You hold a lot of things inside and they just churn in you
and churn in you and churn in you until they blow up.”

The track with Barker, “Had to Do It,” is about haters, inspired
by some of the group’s experiences with product endorsements. “I’m
not down with people that judge you on business endeavors,” Will
says. “When business endeavors have nothing to do with your
creative integrity. If we do something, obviously we believe in it.
We’re not puppets.”

But even with a scattering of issue songs, there’s plenty of
room for fun on Elephunk. Former “fourth” Pea, backing
vocalist Kim Hill, departed the group after the release of
Bridging the Gaps and has been replaced by Tracy Ferguson,
known to the group as Fergie. Her solo vocal track, “Fly Away,” is
“basically our ‘Killing Me Softly’,” Ferguson says, “A chance for
me to show a bit about who I am and what I do. It’s a song about a
past relationship . . . about letting go and moving on and being
okay with it without all the drama.”

Add to that a no-nonsense barn-burner produced by Rockwilder
called “Fire,” and the building blocks of Elephunk are
sounding quite solid indeed. “The whole idea of waiting for the
right time to put out the record gave us all this extra time, and
we wound up writing more songs,” says Will.

It also gave the Peas’ frontman an opportunity to launch a
clothing line and pitch MTV on an anything-goes video show, My
. The concept — the first brought to the network by
an artist — features Will and guest rappers freestyling over a
live band in between screening videos. “Everything is improv — if
you mess up, you mess up. If you land it, you land it,” he

But while the show is taping this month for a debut some time
this spring, the group is preparing to hit the road for an extended
tour supporting the new album. Of course, that could all change
tomorrow. “We get inspired by the things around us,” Will says,
looking at the window at the snowy mountains of Park City, Utah.
“We could go home tomorrow and wind up writing a song about this

In This Article: The Black Eyed Peas


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