They’ve transcended their vigilant hip-hop roots and have become a global phenomenon, the likes of which the music world has rarely seen. Ever-curious and ever-confident, that group is The Black Eyed Peas, and after energizing crowds ’round the globe with the monster-stomp of Elephunk, it’s time for the quartet – William, Fergie, apl.de.ap and Taboo to get down to business – Monkey Business, that is. 2003’s Elephunk was a breakthrough album for The Black Eyed Peas, vaulting them to a level of success unparalleled by any other hip-hop group. The accolades are quick to recite: 7.5 million albums sold worldwide, 4 Grammy nominations, 1 Grammy award, and an unforgettable performance on the 2005 broadcast. But fitted with loose rhymes, buoyant anthemic funk and an ebullient live spirit, the album also heralded a new sound for the modern age – one that is inspired by hip-hop, eschews boundaries and inhibitions, and cuts across ages, races and backgrounds. It is a sound that can be described only as One Nation Under A Black Eyed Peas Groove. But if Elephunk was the group being crowned prince of the castle, then Monkey Business, their fourth album, is The Black Eyed Peas conquering the throne to become King. It is an album that further intensifies their passion for making music together, for connecting with their audience through the most fundamental ways: making people have a good time. It is a credo that has inspired the group since they formed in the late 1990s, earning their keep in the nurturing environment of Los Angeles’ vibrant hip-hop underground. Even then, the group possessed a magnetic spirit that helped them establish a worldwide following through their first two albums, 1998’s Behind The Front and 2000’s Bridging The Gap.
In many ways, Monkey Business is a direct descendant of its predecessor. The success of Elephunk kept the group touring around the globe for nearly 18 months. “In going on the road for so long, we got an idea of what kind of music we wanted to play and make,” explains will.i.am. “Monkey Business is very much about the types of songs we play live. It’s about a party. It’s layered differently and has energy to it that reflects how we tour – from the beats to the types of instruments we used to how we interact with the audience. It’s very much about us and the crowd on this record.” Monkey Business was literally produced and recorded during The Black Eyed Peas everlasting road trip. “I was in Brazil doing some CD shopping,” will.i.am recalls. “I came across this compilation and I thought it was one thing but it turned out to be something else. The Dick Dale song ‘Miserlou,’ was on it. At first I was angry – this isn’t what I wanted to buy,” he laughs. “But then, really, that song is hot. I said, ‘we should do a song like this.’ I jump-started the computer and made some beats on the train. Then we had to fly to Tokyo and I tightened up the beat on the plane. Then I recorded vocals in this park in Tokyo. And that’s how we recorded the song, ‘Pump It.'” The song, a jump-up party anthem, is one of the featured tracks on Monkey Business – and made its debut in a commercial for Best Buy electronics. “It’s the beauty of technology now – you can record anywhere, anytime, any which way. And I love that song because it feels like our live shows, it has that energy.” Monkey Business also furthers the bond the group forged as friends during the making of Elephunk. Before recording that album, the three original members of The Black Eyed Peas – will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo – had been ensnared by personal demons. “I remember that we were each talking about the things that were haunting us and seemed to be crippling us,” recalls will.i.am. Adding the vocal talents of singer, Fergie, the group used music as a therapeutic vehicle. Making music with that near-desperate fervor also is maintained on Monkey Business, says will.i.am. “You’re always challenged not to go back to those bad habits in life,” he says. “When you’re comfortable living, you sometimes think that, well, I beat it once so I can do it again. But you never really escape the things that haunt you.” Thus, making Monkey Business became an effort put forth by all the members of the group – the first the foursome co-wrote together – and the more sophisticated songwriting; the layered grooves of the record and its fulfilled spirit reflect that. “This was really about all of us building a house together,” says will.i.am.