Black Eyed Peas: "Music for the Soul"

Be prepared to hear some buzz about "the Dutchess" and her band. After all, the Black Eyed Peas are providing the half-time entertainment at this year's Super Bowl. AP

Tonight is Grammy Night here on CBS, and the singers known as the Black Eyes Peas are among the evening's hottest contenders. With their diverse backgrounds, they're anything but peas from the same pod, as Michelle Miller shows us:


Tonight could be a very good night for the Black Eyed Peas. Part hip-hop, part pop, the Peas are nominated for six Grammys, including Album and Record of the Year.

But what they're really looking forward to is taking the stage.

"I'm thinking about the performance," said Fergie.

"Yeah, that's what I'm thinking about," said will.i.am. "We win a Grammy, nobody talks about it. It's just for us. But you perform and you knock it out, that thing gets talked about and talked about and talked about and talked about. That success, just knockin' em out - a knockout."

The Peas have had one knockout after another this past year. Their album, "The E.N.D.," sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. The single "Boom Boom Pow" was the most downloaded song of the year on iTunes. And with their other hit, 'I Gotta Feeling," the Black Eyed Peas were number one on the Billboard charts for 26 consecutive weeks.

No individual or group has ever done that.

Miller asked how they would describe their music:

"Electro-static-funk," said Taboo.

"We mix a little rock, we mix a little jazz, we mix a little dance," said will.i.am. "It's feel-good music."

"It's music for the soul," said apl.de.ap.

"I don't think it's easy to categorize this band," said Fergie.

Leader Will and rappers Apl and Taboo formed the group in 1995. The "chick" Pea, Fergie, joined in 2003.

Will admits it is an unlikely foursome.

"Fergie likes to call it the misfits," Taboo said.

"Yeah, we're lovable people. Lovable misfits," said Fergie.

And they come with a wide range of experiences. Will.i.am grew up in a poor neighborhood in East Los Angeles, raised by his single mom. He met Allan Pineda (who goes by apl.de.ap) when they were 14, and a sponsor brought Apl to the U.S. from the Philippines.

(CBS)
Apl spoke no English, but he and Will found a common bond in dance and music.

"Will calls you his best friend and he says without you, there would be no Peas," Miller.

"Wow, thanks Will," said Apl.

Jaime Luis Gomez, who goes by Taboo, began performing with them at night, while keeping his day job at Disneyland . . . picking up horse manure.

"Did that keep you grounded?" Miller asked.

"It keeps me grounded," he said.

The three rappers had some success, then met a former child actress and singer named Stacy Ferguson, who starred in the TV show "Kids Incorporated," then sang with the girl group Wild Orchid. After falling on some tough times, Fergie was striking out on her own.

"I got into drugs, and I went full circle into crystal meth, and came all the way back," she said. "Cleaned up my act, and moved back home to my mom's and started over."

Fergie began singing backup while the Peas were recording their third album, and before it was completed, she was a member of the group.

"The stars aligned and sometimes there's just a magic that happens with artists," Fergie said. "And you just know it. You feel it in the room when you're working with somebody that it's working."

With songs like "Where Is the Love," the group connected with a larger audience.

"That song struck a chord in every single person that listened to it," said Will.

Spend a little time with the Peas and you can see where the love is … in their affection for one another.

"Remember in the beginning I wanted to have dread locks?" Fergie laughed. "And you told me I couldn't? Because Apl had dread locks and Will had dread locks and he's like, 'You can't do that, what were you gonna be, dread heads?'"

Record sales have soared. They've won three Grammys, but critics haven't always liked what they heard.

"Let me tell you something about critics," said Will, "they always gonna criticize. That's their job, right? Right? It they weren't critics, they would just be called 'fans.'"

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Fergie has achieved superstardom on her own. Her solo album, "The Duchess," which Will produced, went triple platinum. She costarred in the film "Nine," and her personal life has become a tabloid staple.

"Has it been difficult living it, the tabloids?" Miller asked.

"Sometimes, yes," she replied. "You just kind of have to toughen up a little bit. We as artists get so many perks and wonderful things in this business. So, boo hoo, you know? If you have to deal with people talking about you, well guess what: We're in this business where we chose to have an audience."

Will has tried his hand at acting, too, in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," and as Moto Moto in the animated "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa."

His song and video "Yes We Can." inspired by a campaign speech by then-candidate Barack Obama, was viewed more than 40 million times on the Internet.

"When inspiration calls, you pick up the phone and you give it directions how to get to your house," Will laughed. "You don't mess around. Like, This inspiration? Hello?"

"What did Obama say to you about that song?" Miller asked.

"He said thanks, and how much he appreciated me stepping out," Will said.

Activism comes naturally to the Peas, all in their mid-30s, as does giving back. The group's Peapod Foundation, and Will's i-am scholarships benefit young people.

Lately it seems the Peas have been everywhere, from the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show to Oprah's season kick-off party - with a flash mob of synchronized dancers.

"That Oprah thing we did, freakin' knock out," said Will. "That went around the planet, man! Sped the world up, sped our rotation up. We spin the world so fast now, a minute is, like, we took five seconds off the minute. Really, now, it's 55 seconds!" he laughed.

Now, as they rehearse for a North American tour that begins this week, the Black Eyed Peas hope to take their show to the next level.

"We know how to work big stages," Will said. "We still have more energy than all the lifts and the lights, so our show, is, y'all gotta come see!"

For Will, and the other Black Eyed Peas, tonight's Grammys are a reminder of the roads they've traveled.

"If you win?" Miller asked.

"If we win, you, know, it's gonna be emotional for me," Will said. "I'll be next to App, that's like my best friend. There's not a lot of things that get me choked up, but when I think about our journey and the things we were able to do together, separate and together, it's amazing."

The Peas say there's no talk of breaking up. In fact, for all their success, the Black Eyed Peas hope they're just getting started.


For more info:
blackeyedpeas.com (Official Site)
interscope.com
dipdive.com
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