The Black Eyed Peas practically disappeared after conquering the world in 2009 and following it up with a monster 2011.
In that final year before going on hiatus, they played two of their three No. 1 singles at the Super Bowl halftime show, performed on four different continents, appeared on “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars” and even released their own video game for Wii and XBox.
Though their EDM-tweaked sixth album, “The Beginning”, had underperformed, there was no doubt that the Black Eyed Peas were one of the hugest pop groups in America, Christopher R. Weingarten wrote for Rolling Stone.
“We thought we were gonna come back in a year,” explains Will.i.am. “Then the year turned into two years. Then Taboo caught cancer like the flu – and beat it – and three years turned into four years, and four years turned in five years.”
The three founding members – Will.I.Am, Taboo and Apl.De.Ap – reappeared briefly for 2015 nostalgic mash-up party “Yesterday.”
This year sees the politically charged single “Street Livin,'” the first single from their ambitious project “Masters of the Sun.” (Longtime BEP singer Fergie was not involved.)
Originally released in 2017 as a 114-page afro-futurist graphic novel via Marvel Comics, “Masters of the Sun” also has a musical component, virtual reality component, and an augmented reality experience featuring voicework from rap Avengers like KRS-One, Rakim, Queen Latifah, Common and more.
The lyrics of “Street Livin” detail systemic racism, police brutality, post-Reaganomics capitalism and more. It mirrors the humanitarian work the Peas have been doing behind the scenes for years: Will’s I.Am.Angel Foundation helps Californian kids make it to college and supports robotics teams in Ferguson; the Apl.De.ApFoundation builds schools in the Phillipines; Taboo has been loudly protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Rolling Stone caught up with the Black Eyed Peas in this Jan. 25, 2018 interview. Here’s an excerpt:
From Rolling Stone. Interview by Christopher R. Weingarten.
Rolling Stone: Is there in anything in music happening right now that gets you excited … where you can hear it and say, “Oh, this is clearly paving a way for the future?”
Will.i.am: No. What’s paving the way for the future of music … is augmented reality and virtual reality. … Right now in 2018, you’re like, what’s the future of music? Not music! There’s always gonna be like, people are gonna push the boundaries on like, formats or song structure. What if I told you that today’s popular music structure, no matter if it’s underground hip-hop or underground rock, or pop, or whatever, it all is based on the limitations that record and vinyl had. … “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” was a song they sung over and over and over and over and over again … there was no time limit.
Rolling Stone: That’s why they thought they couldn’t put rap on a record.
Will.i.am: Right, so here we are in 2018 and TV is still TV. … A TV (show’s) either 30 minutes long or 60 minutes long and the commercials that surround it are either 30 seconds long or 60 seconds long. So when you come to virtual reality and augmented reality, there are no boundaries yet. So that means for the art form, you’re freer as artists to think outside of these boundaries that the technology put around us.
Records and vinyl. How long is a song? 3 minutes and 30 seconds? Oh, what a coinkydink, it just so happens that a song rotates in 33 degrees on a vinyl at 100 BPM or 98 BPM a minute. … We already know the math. So. What is the future of music as far as how it progresses? I would bet that it’s going to be virtual reality, augmented reality ’cause that’s the true place for dreamers to dream up new shit. You can’t dream the way it is because everyone’s so conditioned to yesterday that even if you do abstract jazz, it’s still the version of their version of doing it.
If Michael Jackson was alive and “Thriller” just happened … he would be doing virtual reality right now. Think about it. He did “Thriller” and “Billie Jean” …
Rolling Stone: When there was hardly any music videos.
Will.i.am: And not many people had MTV. There are more virtual reality headsets in the world than there were people with MTV cable subscriptions. You know what I mean? … It’s an amazing time for somebody to try to do “Thriller.” The hit for VR is gonna come.
Read more at Rolling Stone.