The track is sample-based hip-hop, but the Black Eyed Peas used live musicians to recreate the original loop on The Late Show. The bassist played stubby riffs, while a drummer smacked a cymbal-heavy rhythm. A saxophonist and trumpeter added a lingering, melancholy brass riff.
Members of the Black Eyed Peas delivered their lines with little theatricality, looking directly into the camera. “If you’re ebony, they assume your temperament/ Will be vigilant and they call you militant,” Apl.de.ap rapped. “And you’ll get shot and they’ll say the incident/ Is ’cause you’re belligerent, what a coincidence.”
Though many young fans know the Black Eyed Peas primarily as a Top 40 juggernaut, they started as a politically conscious hip-hop group before reaching pop ubiquity. “It’s not like ‘Oh, the Black Eyed Peas are back and now they’re militant,'” Will.i.am. recently told the Los Angeles Times. “Our first big hit was ‘Where Is the Love?’ where we were talking about real stuff. From the brutality of the education system to prison reform, we’ve been out in the community. This is the work we’ve been doing.”
“Street Livin'” accompanies a new graphic novel from the Black Eyed Peas titled Masters of the Sun: The Zombie Chronicles. The Black Eyed Peas plant to unveil a Masters of the Sun virtual reality experience at the Sundance Film Festival. They have no plans to release an album at the moment. “A record is so limited to the kind of things we want to do – 15 songs and a video or two videos on a project doesn’t really feel like much creativity,” Will.i.am told Variety.