Part hip hop, part pop, the Black Eyed Peas measure success by the impact they have on their audience.
"You perform and you knock it out," said will.i.am. "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 2009 album, "The E.N.D.," sold more than 11 million copies worldwide. The single "Boom Boom Pow" was the most downloaded song of that 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. Nobody has ever done that.
They followed "The End" with a new CD, "The Beginning."
"I wanted this new batch of songs to continue to lift spirits and inspire people," said will.i.am.
How would they describe their music?
"I don't think it's easy to categorize this band," said Fergie.
"We mix a little rock, we mix a little jazz, we mix a little dance," said will.i.am. "It's feel-good music."
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.
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.
The Peas have won six 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.'"
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.
(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
"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 found an audience with his song and video "Yes We Can." Inspired by a campaign speech by then-candidate Barack Obama, it 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?"
The Peas have been everywhere, from the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" to "Oprah," joined by 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.
For Will and the other Black Eyed Peas, all their success is a reminder of the roads they've traveled.
"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."
Despite occasional rumors, the Peas say there's no talk of breaking up.
"That's like them stupid tabloids trying to sell you some books," said will.i.am. "We get along too well to break up."
Which means tonight's gonna be a good night … for the Black Eyed Peas, and their fans.
For more info:
blackeyedpeas.com (Official Site)