The Black Eyed Peas have topped the charts, sold millions of records and performed in the Super Bowl halftime show. But will.i.am believes the group’s “international success” hurt its standing with African American fans.
The rapper, songwriter and producer shared his thoughts on the Dec. 30 episode of Wyclef Jean’s “Run That Back” podcast.
“In 2004, Black Eyed Peas, we were just trying to get on. I’m a Black dude, but when you think of Black Eyed Peas, we got so big that… and it hurts, it still hurts a little bit that we’re not considered a Black group because we got that big,” will.i.am said.
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He added: “When you think of Black Eyed Peas, it’s no longer urban or Black culture, which is… it’s not good for the Black community that Black Eyed Peas is not looked at as a Black group because we’ve had international success.”
Founded in Los Angeles in 1995, the group was made up of will.i .am, Kim Hill, Taboo, and Apl.de.ap. Hill left in 2000, and was replaced by Fergie in 2002. Early on, the group was considered an underground hip hop act, but it later transitioned into pop music.
On Friday, Jan. 1., Hill posted a video on social media responding to will.i.am’s comments about the BEP.
The video began with her 10-year-old son Cassius sharing his thoughts on how the group drifted away from its hip hop roots. Hill later said she supports the Black Eyed Peas, but will.i.am’s comments came off as “cultural smudging.”
“Why I’m coming on camera today and addressing you is because for you to make that statement as if the onus is on the Black community to celebrate you and the band when you didn’t celebrate us,” Hill said in the video. “It’s almost like there’s this cultural smudging.”
She then brought up the 2019 documentary short from the New York Times about her time in the group.
“For the record, when my doc got on YouTube, and it’s at, I don’t know, like 5.4 million views with like … almost 19,000 comments, the majority of those comments that come from Black women clearly say it feels like cultural smudging,” she added.
The doc was part of the NYT‘s “Almost Famous” series. In the film, Hill revealed there was “pressure” from management to make the group more commercial. She also said record label executives wanted her to use her sexuality and “grind on will.i.am in a bathing suit.” Instead, she wrote a letter to management saying no thanks, and moved on.
On Saturday, many Twitter users shared their thoughts on Hill’s post.
“I’m glad Kim Hill shared her thoughts Bc this was long overdue. Will I Am needs to sit back & re-evaluate,” wrote Twitter user @heyjscott.
While @loveqtina wrote: “I love the response Kim Hill (the original female singer in the Black Eyed Peas) gave to Will.I.Am’s comments. Also her 10-year-old son is super impressive in how speaks about it. The kids are alright.”
Twitter user @VallyOMally added: “Will I Am sold out Kim Hill and Black folks for a white girl named Dana and a few bubblegum songs. F outta here.”
Fergie left the Grammy-winning group in 2018. She was replaced by J. Rey Soul, real name Jessica Reynoso, who was a finalist on season 1 of the Philippines edition of The Voice. J. Rey Soul and Ozuna sang on the BEP’s 2020 hit dance track “Mamacita.”