Full Clip: Will.i.am Runs Down His Catalogue Feat. Eazy E, The Black Eyed Peas, John Legend, Fergie, Nas, The Game, Usher and Mi
So let’s get it out of the way. Will.i.am doesn’t care what his critics think. The 37-year-old bristles at the notion that his once stripped down, back-to-basics rap troop the Black Eyed Peas has sold out to become a world-beating pop behemoth, complete with crossover princess Fergie. Will laughs at the suggestion that he is not a true hip-hop head; that he is obsessed with being no. 1 on the music charts. Indeed, the rapper, producer, and songwriter, who grew up in the projects of East Los Angeles, will be the first to tell you he has nothing to prove to the skeptics.
“When I hear these critics and MC’s judging the Peas’ movement and saying I’ve sold out, they don’t know where my map is going to even judge my music,” he tells VIBE. “My brain is beyond how you are judging me. Judge me by my entire career and what I contributed to hip-hop, pop and the underground. Judge me on what I’ve contributed to social activism when I produced a song for [then candidate] Barack Obama. Judge me as an entrepreneur; judge me as a businessman. But most of all, judge me as someone who loves music.”
It would be quite easy to measure will.i.am’s success with the more than 50 million in worldwide albums sales that the Peas have enjoyed. But ask him what he is most proud of and he will talk to you for hours about the time he landed his first record deal with late gangsta rap icon and N.W.A. founder Eazy E and his Ruthless Records. He will go on and on about his studio time with Mos Def. Will’s voice switches to a hardcore Stan when he waxes poetic about his love for De La Soul. Or his time recording with the late King of Pop Michael Jackson—which he says remains the highlight of his young career. With a staggeringly diverse music portfolio (Nicki Minaj, Too $hort, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, just to name a few), will.i.am is a walking paradox. The immense talent, who recently made VIBE’s 21 Most Important Black Artists Under 40, offers some of his most memorable moments from how former music industry big wig Steve Stoute almost destroyed the Peas’ career to creating hip-hop magic with Nas. This is Full Clip.—Keith Murphy