will_i_am

Will. I. Am: The Professor of Production; From Eazy-E and Black Eyed Peas, to Nas, and The Game

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

hit. 

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

‘em.”  

AllHipHop.com: When did you

first fall in love with production and making beats? 

Will.I.Am.: I’ve been making

beats since 1991/92. This dude named DJ Motivator taught me how to make

beats. He had this drum machine, well it wasn’t even a drum machine;

it was like a work station called the Roland F550. That’s 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! Ya’ll gotta check out this beat I did.” And they were like,

“You make beats and rap?” And I’m 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 it’s like, how can you lead someone when you

don’t speak their language? So I didn’t 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 doesn’t 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 ain’t a rock producer, but that motherf*****’s

an engineer. Then you have a producer that don’t do anything but sit

back in the studio and tell you what he does and doesn’t like. They’re

all producers. [Listening to production] from Papa Roach, Rolling Stones,

Earth Wind and Fire, I realized there’s a big difference in what a

producer is, regardless of a Hip-Hop producer or Hip-Hop musician. 

At the end of the day, it’s just music. And in the world of music,

there’s 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, they’re

a producer. No matter how the song is done, whether it’s 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. I’ve seen the n***a do that.  The thing

that I don’t 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 isn’t hard. Now, with technology, anybody can make a beat.   

AllHipHop.com: But that’s

the game right now. If you do get that placement, the label’s 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 you’re shoppin’ beats, you’re just a beat maker. It’s no

different than if you’re a bass player and you’re shoppin’ bass

lines. Just because you’re a bass player, it doesn’t make you a

producer. If I was a new producer, knowing some of the things that I

know now, I wouldn’t even shop beats.  I would go out and find

me a superstar to make [with] the beats that the labels want. 

I’d 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

that’s 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 you’re large. Producers need to control things. 

AllHipHop.com: few people know

about your roots with Eazy E’s Ruthless Records.  What’s 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, it’s hitting

people like “Whoa! Ya’ll come from the same place Dr. Dre comes

from?”  Yeah, that’s 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 didn’t become relevant until recently,

selling 30 million albums. So, in 1997, who cared?  Yeah we put

out albums, but it wasn’t 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 wasn’t 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 isn’t 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.  We’re not on because I did a track for

such and such that blew up and now I’m 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**t’s

wack.”  Like, if you can’t do something, then it’s not wack. 

This is just me personally, but if you don’t know how something was

made then you can’t comment on it.  So I can’t say an MC is

wack if I don’t 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.  That’s why I can make a record for The Game, then do

“Hip-Hop is Dead” for Nas, then turn around a do “Big Girls Don’t

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 didn’t do the NBA campaign,

the iPod commercials, or the song “Where’s the Love?” I don’t

think people would’ve cared. What that song did alone was make everyone

pay attention to the group, because everyone was on the same accord. 

So if we didn’t 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. She’s beautiful, she sings great and she has a

story. And after that story is told, she’s 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 don’t really care, because I know what I am.  I know what got

me into music and the things I’m 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 there’s a flaw in Hip-Hop. 

Hip-Hop is the only culture that doesn’t 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, that’s f***ed up.

That ain’t nobody’s fault but Hip-Hop’s 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

from it. 

So I care but I don’t 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: You’re 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

him questions.  

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 don’t think

anybody can do that. Justin Timberlake can’t even do that. I don’t

think he’s supposed to even do that.  That’s what we talked

about in the studio, like “Let’s not compete with you.” I mean,

they don’t even make records anymore.  Even if you came out with

Thriller today, it won’t 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

really.  

AllHipHop.com: How is that

project coming along? Will.I.Am:  Good.  I’m

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 don’t know when I’m

putting it out. I have Nas, Kanye, Slick Rick, Common all on that album.

But I’m 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 Lot’s Baby Got Back video. What are your views on

misogyny and it’s prevalence in Hip-Hop? Will.I.Am : I think it’s the

same as in every form of music on the planet and movies.  That’s

just the mentality of humanity right now.  It isn’t 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,

“That’s so fresh.” Let 50 Cent talk about the same thing and he’s

labeled a woman abuser. Hip-Hop just gets a bad rap, no pun intended,

because it’s made by Black people. 

AllHipHop.com: Talk to me about

Musicane. Will.I.Am : Right.  There

is this player with this company I’m 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

isn’t scheduled to be released until next year, but what’s the deal

with BEP’s next album? Will.I.Am : We’re gonna flip

the script on that one, because we flipped some marketing s**t on that

project too.  It’s 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, you’ll 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 there’s any group

that embodies what Hip-Hop truly is on the planet, I don’t give a

f**k what anybody says, that’s Black Eyed Peas, because we incorporate

all the elements.  So if somebody says we ain’t, f**k them.

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