Black Eyed Peas Back in Business

Hip-hop foursome says "Monkey" is a whole new beast

Black Eyed Peas characterize their fourth album, Monkey Business (due June 7th), as a great leap forward. "This record is blow-for-blow better than [2003's] Elephunk in the creativity, the substance and the groove," says frontman/producer Will.I.Am. "It's edgier, a lot faster and more thought-provoking."

The international success of Elephunk kept the hip-hop foursome so busy that the latest release was developed amid continued demand for live shows. "We lived in London for two months while we toured Europe," explains Will. "We would fly back and forth on weekends -- to Finland, Germany and France -- and record during the week. And, along the way, we recorded in Brazil, Japan and Australia as well."

The Monkey Business sessions were particularly special for female vocalist Fergie, who joined during the recording of Elephunk. "It was really cool for me, being the first time I was there from the beginning to the end of an album," she says.

"We stayed in a house together," adds rapper/dancer Apl de Ap. "We'd cook in the morning and then hit the studio -- well, Will was always in the studio."

After spending two months recording in London and a year touring the globe, the Peas have finally completed an album that features powerhouse guests such as Sting, Justin Timberlake, John Legend and James Brown. "With James Brown, you have history," says Will. "He's the godfather of everything."

The Peas also collaborated with folkie Jack Johnson. "There's a song where we rehashed something that Jack and I worked on in 2001," Will explains. "We looked at it, put it on vinyl and scratched it and treated it as a sample." The Peas divulge their wish list of guests for future records: Prince, Herbie Hancock, India.Arie, the Rolling Stones, Sade and Franz Ferdinand, who they performed with to open the Grammys.

Among the group's favorite Monkey Business tracks is "Union" with Sting. "The message in that song is everybody getting together and uniting, the way that music comes together," says Will. "We don't enjoy music that's out of key, so why do we live life out of key?" And "Pump It" gets the typically quiet Pea, Taboo, excited: "I like the energy it presents on stage. We've performed it a couple of times, and it gets the same reaction as 'Let's Get Retarded.'"

The Peas, currently on a promotional tour in Europe, will return to the U.S. at the end of May to kick off dates in support of the new album. "This will be our first headlining tour in the ten years of the Black Eyed Peas' existence," says Will. "And we are getting ready."