November 30th is the release date for the new Black Eyed Peas album, The Beginning, don’t expect an in-depth review of it from me. I have listened to it, and it’s embarrassing. What would will.i.am say to that? “Yeah, but now I’m embarrassingly rich.” The album is a steamy load of crap, but anyone who has heard the Black Eyed Peas for the last eight years will at least know there are people who hate what they have become. How do you become a success? “Just add white girl.” The thing is, Fergie has an incredible voice, and yet her work with BEP is shit. “Yeah, but now I’m shit rich”, well good for you. Now do better, or will you become this generation’s Sheryl Crow and Jon Bon Jovi: famous worldwide, but famous for shit? “Yeah, but I’m rich and famous”, yeah okay.
Nothing I say will change your view, but I want to address something quick. I do not like the music will.i.am has done in the last eight years, in their Fergie-era. I was down with the group for their first two albums, especially the first two, and yet critics and hip-hop fans were accusing them for dickriding the Native Tongues. Yet I felt their music was more interesting, will.i.am was doing some daring stuff in his music and truth be told, he showed a pop touch long before they made it their sole bread and butter. Not “soul bread and butter”. I really liked what will.i.am did on his first solo album, really thought he would take off towards that direction.
Now, while I am not a fan of his music, I admire his business plan. He knows what makes money and he has taken that route to the bank. It would be too easy to say “he abandoned his audience” but he might me someone who would say “audience? Half you fuckers didn’t like a damn think I did.” Anyone remember when he had his own show on MTV, and he would be in the studio with his band, jamming as if he could be the next Stevie Wonder? He was that close, but he jumped from “Fingertips Part 2” to “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, surpassing the potential to make his own versions of Talking Book, Innervisions, or Fulfillingness’ First Finale. The man is more than capable, and yet why bank on greatness when you can make great bank? Whatever formula he has chosen, it has worked, and any artist would love to be on the path he is on. To be able to influence a generation is amazing, but he’s not doing it on that level. He’s making people party and dance, and maybe in a time when it seems the world is falling apart, people need to smile and get down. BEP are the masters of a good time. It seems what will.i.am did do is take advantage of people calling them a “worldly group” with different ethnicities contained within the group. What they did is take their music around the world, they’ve become worldly for fans who could care less about ethics, issues, and integrity. It’s just “just, dance, and smile.”
I do wonder this: what would will.i.am today say to will.i.am from 1997? Would the will.i.am of yesteryear be blown away by the self who exploited himself in the future? Would the will.i.am of now look back at his younger self and tell him “you’re struggling now, but be open to change. You love a good pop song, and you can write a good pop song. You’re going to milk it, and milk it dry. When you have a chance, hang on because this ride is fucking incredible.” Would the younger will.i.am tell the older will.i.am to buzz off, because musical integrity is everything, or would the now will.i.am tell him “hey man, as Jaleel White will say, you gotta fake it to make it, even if it means dressing up like Urkel.”
In the 2010 Grammy Awards, will.i.am was in the audience and someone looked at him from the stage and said “there is no industry anymore”, and the only think will.i.am could do is smirk. What could he do, stand up and say “I make more money than most of you assholes in this room combined?” Or something like “there may be no industry, but I’m getting paid over the bullshit music everyone wants me to make”? Which leads me to two quotes:
“There isn’t a music industry, just do it yourself. If you’re not Christina Aguilera or Pink or Kelly Clarkson or anyone from American Idol, you’re screwed. So try to do it yourself.” -Wendy Melvoin
“No matter how carefully and assiduously and how deeply you bury shit, the American public will find it and buy it in large quantity.” -Artie Shaw