Black Eyed Peas leader launches label
By Leila Cobo
MIAMI (Billboard) – The most obvious question to ask Black
Eyed Peas leader will.i.am about starting his own label is,
what took him so long?
Turn on the radio to virtually any pop station and you are
likely to hear the sounds of will.i.am.
He produced and appears on Mary J. Blige’s “About You” and
co-wrote and produced the Pussycat Dolls’ “Beep.” He co-wrote
John Legend’s Grammy Award-nominated “Ordinary People” and
remixed the Rolling Stones’ “Rain Fall Down” and Bob Marley’s
“Africa Unite,” among many others.
He also has tracks on the current Ricky Martin, Santana and
Earth, Wind & Fire albums.
He and Justin Timberlake are collaborating on Timberlake’s
new solo album as a production team dubbed the Jawbreakers
(they also plan to produce outside projects under that
moniker). In addition, he is about to begin work on material
earmarked for upcoming albums from Snoop Dogg, Sean “Diddy”
Combs and Nas. He also plans to begin recording his first
major-label solo album this summer, with an eye on a 2007
And naturally, there is his work with his own band, A&M act
the Black Eyed Peas.
And now comes will.i.am music group, a joint venture with
A&M/Interscope. The label will officially launch with the
February 14 release “Timeless,” from Sergio Mendes. That album,
which features many of Mendes’ classic tunes revamped, is a
collaboration between will.i.am music group, Concord and
Starbucks Hear Music. Other acts coming out on will.i.am
include Macy Gray and BEP singer Fergie.
‘IN THE LIFESTYLE’
Will.i.am vows he’ll be hands-on far beyond just grooming
and producing talent. “My ultimate goal is bigger than me
putting (a record) out on my label,” he says. “I want to make
sure the product is marketed correctly. For records to succeed
and impact lifestyle it takes more than just a producer’s mind,
it takes a person who understands the marketplace and the
consumer and a person who is participating in the lifestyle.”
An unusually versatile artist and a chameleon-like
producer, will.i.am adapts easily to different artists’ sounds.
He stresses that he is forming a music company, not just a
pipeline for traditional albums. “To say I’m just going to make
records is limiting the realms of people’s imaginations,” says
will.i.am, who houses all of his ventures including his
clothing line under his Los Angeles based company, will.i.am
“I will, of course, continue to make records, but also
exclusive content that’s embodied with the music as a whole —
short films, screen savers, ringtones, ringbacks, a whole
cluster of content at the same time, and own it — not just
putting out a record and four months later say, ‘Hey, we want
to do a ringtone.’ (I) really go into the project as a whole
and think of all the possible ways to provide content, so that
everything is linear, including the tour, and doesn’t hurt the
The idea, he says, is to embrace all forms of technology.
“I can record in an airplane, I can record backstage in a show,
at an airport lobby, in the bullet train going from Yokohama to
Tokyo,” he says. “The model of what my label is has to
complement the radical freedom of how the records are made.”
Speaking on the phone from Scotland in between tour stops
with BEP, will.i.am explains that the records he listened to as
a child are reflected in his diverse array of projects today.
Growing up black in predominantly Latino East Los Angeles,
he was exposed to many ideas and sounds, from the hip-hop he
personally favored as a kid to the Marley, Mendes and Earth,
Wind & Fire records his mom made him listen to.
Today, those older sounds keep coming back.
When will.i.am was asked to remix the track “Dance to the
Music” for Sly & the Family Stone, he was given the original
sessions to manipulate. Rita Marley came with the original
singers of “Africa Unite” for the Bob Marley track.
And, as it turns out, will.i.am’s first efforts at remixing
as a teen were with old Mendes albums. So when the possibility
of collaborating with Mendes on a full album came about, he
showed up at Mendes’ house armed with the composer’s old vinyl
Will.i.am admits it can be intimidating working with such
veterans as Santana, Earth, Wind & Fire and Mendes.
“So I get out and study different forms of music and figure
out what I’m going to bring to the table. I don’t just want to
bring the beat,” he says.