Black Eyed Peas' creative force makes producers' hot list
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
LOS ANGELES — It took two multiplatinum albums, several hits and a few Grammy nominations for people to realize that the Black Eyed Peas weren't just a silly, poppy, hip-hop gimmick (and to be fair, some people still aren't convinced).
So will.i.am — best known as the group's dreadlocked lead lyricist, but more importantly is its creative director — isn't surprised that it has taken awhile for the world to take note of his production prowess as the Peas' main writer and producer, but also as a producer and songwriter for others.
Will (who's given name is William Adams) was nominated for a Grammy for song of the year for co-writing John Legend's breakout acoustic piano ballad, "Ordinary People," and he recently produced Sergio Mendes' all-star comeback album as well as a song for Mary J. Blige on her comeback smash album "The Breakthrough."
Some of his upcoming projects include Diddy, Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlake — a list that definitely places him on the hot list of producers.
"He's brilliant— he's one of my favorite people to work with," says Legend. "He's bouncing off the wall in the studio, and he's so positive. It's just fun to work with people like that."
But will never craved to be that producer with whom everyone wanted to work.
"For a while I was anti-working outside of the Peas, because I wanted to save all the good stuff for us," says will, only semi-joking.
Clearly, that approach helped the Peas, who begin their first headline tour in the United States on Thursday. When the group first debuted in 1998, the quirky, multi-ethnic rap trio of will, taboo and apl.de.ap appealed to a niche audience. But with the addition of lead singer Fergie in 2003, they gained more pop appeal to their already quirky hip-hop sound, and they sold nearly 3 million copies of their third album, "Elephunk," which had hits like "Where's The Love" and "Let's Get It Started." Last year's follow-up, "Monkey Business," has also been a multiplatinum success thanks to "My Humps," "Pump It" and "Don't Phunk With My Heart."
Will not only produced those albums but also was a writer and engineer on many of those hits as well.
The 31-year-old was tapped to work on projects, including tribute discs for the Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire. But he only took those gigs because he had a chance to work with esteemed music legends.
"Those are like projects that you don't say no to. Earth Wind & Fire? You've gotta do those things," he says.
But it was a younger act that would broaden his appeal even more. Legend's "Ordinary People" — a sparse ballad featuring only Legend's voice and a piano — was originally written by the pair for the Peas. But will realized that it didn't fit the group's vibe, so when Legend asked to use it for his debut album, he agreed — "like a fool!" will says.
Legend wanted will to produce the record, but he declined.
"I was like, 'John — it's a piano ballad! Put some mikes on the piano ... and press record!
"I don't like taking credit for little dumb things. I'm an artist before I'm a producer," he adds. "I don't like when producers, they do a beat, they leave the studio and the engineer does all the work ... When I produce a record, I'm in there from the beginning to the end."