When The Black Eyed Peas debuted, they were critically acclaimed, with many claiming them the heirs to the Native Tongue movement. Three albums later, the Black Eyed Peas have undergone a huge makeover, mainly the addition of former Wild Orchid member Fergie, and have gone from acquired taste to world pop stars. While some of their original fans may have jumped off the bandwagon, their fan base is larger than ever, which their new style reflects.
The group’s latest offering, Monkey Business, should solidify their status among TRL’s elite with infectious beats that will have the biggest BEP detractors tapping their feet. will.i.am does the majority of the beats, producing 11 of the 15 tracks, providing the album with a consistency rarely seen on album’s today. On “Audio Delite At Low Fidelity”, he does his best Prince Paul impression (circa 1991) with dark drum patterns coupled with high pitched flutes, which works surprisingly well. He also equips Fergie with booming drums for her “solo” as she looks to fill Gwen Stefani’s void in the clubs on the less than inspiring “My Humps”. The album is dominated by will’s sound, and he is able to make diverse yet similar beats to keep the fluidity.
One notable exception comes from Timbaland, who produces “My Style”, featuring Justin Timberlake, with signature drums and style (pun intended), which fits seamlessly with will’s sound. Dante Santiago, James Brown and Sting make guest appearances as well as Q-Tip, Cee-Lo, John Legend, and Talib Kweli on the posse cut, “Like That”. Unfortunately will.i.am’s
tribute to A Tribe Called Quest seems contrived with lines like “Can I kick It?/Yup really far though/From El Segundo to Toronto” and “But I wasn’t that cute when I didn’t have the loot/ And I don’t smoke herbs but I’m still real nice with the verbs/So FUCK (hey!) what you heard” tarnishing the gleam from the guests.
Overall the lyrics from the BEP members are mediocre at best. The group’s second single, “I Lied”, is full of uninspiring lyrics such as will rapping, “I admit I have been a little immature/ “Phunked” with your heart like I was the predator/ In my book of lies I was the editor and the author/ I forged my signature”. The BEP are not going to be confused with great lyricists like Rakim, Jay-Z or even Canibus, but they should not be conjuring up memories of Blinky Blink in a Rug Rats car either. Eventually the simplicity of their lyrics catches up with them and the album becomes nauseating cliched (I was predicting the next line before I heard it).
Fame and fortune come with a price and the Black Eyed Peas have been sacrificing some of their creativity to reach new heights of popularity. However unlike many other “pop” groups, The BEP follow Bono’s blueprint and try to stand for something. On the Sting assisted anti-war song, “One For All”, will rhetorically asks “Do you really think Mohammed has a problem with Jehova?”, and the group’s sentiments are genuine through out the song. While they are no longer considered the next De La or Tribe, the BEP are much better alternatives than N’ Sync or Britanny Spears to hear on the radio.
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