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.