For those who think Hip-Hop
is dead, you have been bamboozled; at least according to Black Eyed
Peas front man. Born William James Adams Jr., the famed MC
and producer has been a force to be reckoned with around the world,
as he has successfully immersed himself into the melting pot of musicality.
From Nas and Talib Kweli, to Fergie, Will.I.Am has left no room for
discussion as he oozes with versatility and musical prowess, hit after
While some find this mainstream
success a deviation from what is Hip-Hop, Will.I.Am argues that the
very essence of all music is Hip-Hop, thus making him a staple in the
genre in 2007. As he gears up to release his first solo debut Songs
About Girls, Will.I.Am caught up with AllHipHop.com to give us some
California Love. In the quirky conversation, he discusses what
separates him from every other producer in the industry, the problem
with Hip-Hop, and why Black Eyed Peas embody the essence of what true
Hip-Hop is. And anyone who disagrees, well frankly, he says F**k
AllHipHop.com: When did you
first fall in love with production and making beats?
Will.I.Am.: Ive been making
beats since 1991/92. This dude named DJ Motivator taught me how to make
beats. He had this drum machine, well it wasnt even a drum machine;
it was like a work station called the Roland F550. Thats what I started
on. At the time, I was in high school with Ahmad, the dude who had that
song Back in the Day, and I remember coming to History class like,
Yo! Yall gotta check out this beat I did. And they were like,
You make beats and rap? And Im like, Yeah dude, while I
make beats, I can make beats to the way I hear my rhyme. I wanted
to write a rhyme to the beat I made, or I wanted to make a beat to the
rhyme I wrote. I was working with musicians, and I would tell the musicians
Can you make the bass line like [this]? I would be trying to hum
it and s**t. And its like, how can you lead someone when you
dont speak their language? So I didnt want to know just beat talk,
I wanted to play it. So I went to school and learned [music] theory
and expanded my knowledge on beats, writing songs, transposing, keys
and semitones and all that stuff.
AllHipHop.com: People often
refer to you as a Hip-Hop musician, as opposed to a Hip-Hop producer
or artist. Why do you think you garner that title?
Will.I.Am: There are so many
different names for producers. A rock producer doesnt touch the drum
machine. He has programmers, and all he does is set-up mics, produce
the songs and EQ s**t. On the other hand, a Hip-Hop producer will have
a programmer, he aint a rock producer, but that motherf*****s
an engineer. Then you have a producer that dont do anything but sit
back in the studio and tell you what he does and doesnt like. Theyre
all producers. [Listening to production] from Papa Roach, Rolling Stones,
Earth Wind and Fire, I realized theres a big difference in what a
producer is, regardless of a Hip-Hop producer or Hip-Hop musician.
At the end of the day, its just music. And in the world of music,
theres different titles that define how songs are executed.
I just wanted to be all of them.
AllHipHop.com: So are you saying
that someone who sits behind a keyboard and creates a beat in 15 minutes
can still be considered a producer? Will.I.Am: Yeah, theyre
a producer. No matter how the song is done, whether its from 0 to
A, or Z to A. Like Kanye West- a perfect example. That motherf****r
is a producer. He makes a beat, he sits there throughout the whole session
and produces vocals for it, and even gives you some f****n ideas
on how to flip the hook. Ive seen the n***a do that. The thing
that I dont respect is people who makes beats and then leave the
studio, and someone else does all the hard work. Because you know, making
a beat isnt hard. Now, with technology, anybody can make a beat.
AllHipHop.com: But thats
the game right now. If you do get that placement, the labels engineers
get their hands on it and master it in their studio. How do you
curb that as a new producer? Will.I.Am : As a new producer,
if youre shoppin beats, youre just a beat maker. Its no
different than if youre a bass player and youre shoppin bass
lines. Just because youre a bass player, it doesnt make you a
producer. If I was a new producer, knowing some of the things that I
know now, I wouldnt even shop beats. I would go out and find
me a superstar to make [with] the beats that the labels want.
Id be like, You want beats? F**k that. Use my beats to build
your artist? How about you build my artist? Just in the business
of it, if you make a beat, they may give you like 2500 dollars, and
thats a foot in the door; but your foot in the door could be a lot
bigger if you come in with a project. Like, if you introduce the next
Fergie or 50 Cent, oh youre large. Producers need to control things.
AllHipHop.com: few people know
about your roots with Eazy Es Ruthless Records. Whats the
story behind that? Will.I.Am : Eazy E and
Ruthless Records was a big deal. You know, Eazy E and Dr. Dre
all come from that. And now that Black Eyed Peas is so big, its hitting
people like Whoa! Yall come from the same place Dr. Dre comes
from? Yeah, thats crazy huh? When Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and
all these people left, Eazy E went to the LA underground and found MCs
to ghostwrite and be a part of his camp, and I was one of those guys.
Ruthless Records was influx
after Eazy E passed away and the whole infrastructure of Ruthless Records
was trying to get over the fact that Eazy was gone. And we were some
group on Ruthless [Records], but it didnt become relevant until recently,
selling 30 million albums. So, in 1997, who cared? Yeah we put
out albums, but it wasnt a big story. In 2000, we put out the second
record. The people who talked about it talked about our affiliation
with Eazy E, but it wasnt until recently that anywhere you go on
the planet, people know who the Black Eyed Peas are.
AllHipHop.com: Most producers
out of California have a distinct sound, but your sound is so unique
because it isnt distinct. Is that something you had to work
at, or was it natural for you to go against the grain? Will.I.Am : That was a result
of how we got put on. The person that put [Black Eyed Peas] on
passed away and then we had to get back on, and we got back on through
performing with a band. Were not on because I did a track for
such and such that blew up and now Im getting my shot. We got on
because we kicked and knocked down walls, and we did a whole bunch of
s**t. So for me, I loved producing and I hated saying That s**ts
wack. Like, if you cant do something, then its not wack.
This is just me personally, but if you dont know how something was
made then you cant comment on it. So I cant say an MC is
wack if I dont know where his influence is. I would practice and
do samba songs, or Hip-Hop, or soul ballads. I built all that information
from f***in with musicians and trying to flip different styles of
music. Thats why I can make a record for The Game, then do
Hip-Hop is Dead for Nas, then turn around a do Big Girls Dont
Cry for Fergie, and still work with John Legend on Ordinary People.
I just love music.
AllHipHop.com: We talked about
how you guys became popular, recently. Do you think that was in large
part due to the addition of Fergie? Will.I.Am : I think Fergie being
in the group was a definite bonus, but if we didnt do the NBA campaign,
the iPod commercials, or the song Wheres the Love? I dont
think people wouldve cared. What that song did alone was make everyone
pay attention to the group, because everyone was on the same accord.
So if we didnt have those things, it would be no different than with
Esthero. We did a song with a white girl before, same s**t, but
Fergie added fuel. Shes beautiful, she sings great and she has a
story. And after that story is told, shes dope.
AllHipHop.com: Now with the
addition of Fergie and dumbed down lyrical content, to many you became
predominately pop. Do you feel the need to validate yourself in
the world of Hip-Hop? Will.I.Am : See, I care but
I dont really care, because I know what I am. I know what got
me into music and the things Im inspired by. I know my capabilities
as a beat maker, a producer, an MC and a dancer, and f**k it, a graffiti
artist. The thing that saddens me is that theres a flaw in Hip-Hop.
Hip-Hop is the only culture that doesnt keep the things relevant.
In rock & roll, people are always talking about the clash, punk
rock, and they keep their music relevant. Like, the only people benefiting
from Public Enemy, sadly but true, is VH1. Sorry, thats f***ed up.
That aint nobodys fault but Hip-Hops fault. Hip-Hop should
be making all that loot. There should be a f***in Hip-Hop infrastructure,
not just little things that fans build that turn into things like AllHipHop.com.
Hip-Hop has turned into a disposable lifestyle, where someone else profits
So I care but I dont care,
because when you say Hip-Hop you say they. When you talk
to Nas, Premier or The Game, they view me as Hip-Hop. I mean, was Heavy
D Hip-Hop? Yes. Was MC Hammer Hip-Hop? Yes. All of them are Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: Youre working
with like, the entire pop culture roster right now, with Michael Jackson
at the top of that list. Will.I.Am : Michael Jackson
is dope. Working with him has taught me a lot, just talking and asking
AllHipHop.com: Speaking as
objectively as possible, do you think he can make a smash record like
Off The Wall or Thriller ever again? Will.I.Am: I dont think
anybody can do that. Justin Timberlake cant even do that. I dont
think hes supposed to even do that. Thats what we talked
about in the studio, like Lets not compete with you. I mean,
they dont even make records anymore. Even if you came out with
Thriller today, it wont sell what it sold [then].
AllHipHop.com: Anyone else
on the roster that you are particularly excited about working with? Will.I.Am: Whitney Houston,
Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Ludacris, Snoop, and finishing my record
AllHipHop.com: How is that
project coming along? Will.I.Am: Good. Im
working on two albums at the same time. Songs About Girls
is coming out on September 25th. That has songs like
I Got It from My Momma. The second one is called Black
Einstein, and that one is finished but I dont know when Im
putting it out. I have Nas, Kanye, Slick Rick, Common all on that album.
But Im focusing on Songs About Girls right now.
AllHipHop.com: I just saw the
video for the first single Got It From My Momma and it reminds
me of Sir Mix A Lots Baby Got Back video. What are your views on
misogyny and its prevalence in Hip-Hop? Will.I.Am : I think its the
same as in every form of music on the planet and movies. Thats
just the mentality of humanity right now. It isnt just on Hip-Hop.
I was watching Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
and I seen a n***a kick a chick in the titty. But people are like,
Thats so fresh. Let 50 Cent talk about the same thing and hes
labeled a woman abuser. Hip-Hop just gets a bad rap, no pun intended,
because its made by Black people.
AllHipHop.com: Talk to me about
Musicane. Will.I.Am : Right. There
is this player with this company Im a part of called Musicane. You
go to musicane.com and you download the player to any site, and if someone
comes and buys the song from your player, then whoever has that player
gets paid when I get paid. Black Einstein
will be released on the player and Songs About Girls
will actually launch [the player] when it is released.
AllHipHop.com: And I know it
isnt scheduled to be released until next year, but whats the deal
with BEPs next album? Will.I.Am : Were gonna flip
the script on that one, because we flipped some marketing s**t on that
project too. Its going to be dope.
AllHipHop.com: For you, where
does the production process begin and where does it end? Will.I.Am : It depends.
It can develop just from this conversation right now. I can take
what you just said, where does it begin, where does it end? and
we can develop that into a hook, or that could be the melody. [begins
to make the beat with his mouth and sing the melody] Then we can add
some bass and strings, and then I can start adding my rap. Or
it can start with a beat. The way the cuff drops could be hot.
Then you build on it with the piano. Or I can hear two people
talking, not even in the same conversation, and if you combine it together,
that could make a hot melody.
AllHipHop.com: I wish I could
see you doing this. In 2007, do you feel that the Hip-Hop producer has
to open up to the idea of more than Hip-Hop in order to garner the mass
appeal of Hip-Hop artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, who have worked
with the Adam Levines, Jon Brions and and Chris Martins of the music
industry. Will.I.Am : I think Hip-Hop
producers, today, need to know what Hip-Hop means in order to call themselves
Hip-Hop. And once you know what Hip-Hop means, youll go out
and start to realize that Hip-Hop is everything. Hip-Hop is James
Brown, Led Zeplin, Sly and the Family Stone, gospel, blues it borrows
from everything. Hip-Hop is the most open-minded form of music
because it feeds off everything to make it Hip-Hop. But it has become
so close-minded because we stopped doing that. So if theres any group
that embodies what Hip-Hop truly is on the planet, I dont give a
f**k what anybody says, thats Black Eyed Peas, because we incorporate
all the elements. So if somebody says we aint, f**k them.