Success is a one-way street. The hip-hop world is an unforgiving beast. It’s almost as though once you pop [à la EPMD Crossover], any “hip-hop cred” goes out the window. Such is the case with Black Eyed Peas, arguably one of the more successful, polished – and currently active – “hip-pop” crossover groups of the past… Well, ever really. Their audience, though, is far from the backpacker crowd you may find at your local club catching a performance from the likes Joey Badass. Not these days anyways. This wasn’t always the case.
In case you forgot (and you’re not alone), or too young to recall the scene at the time, I thought it would be good to take a BEP “refresher”. Will.I.am and Apl.De.Ap met in ’88, and started to write and perform. Before long, joined by a friend named Dante Santiago, and the trio were signing their first deal. After grabbing the attention of Jerry Hellar’s nephew, who promptly facilitated a contract with Eazy E’s Ruthless Records under the name ATBAN Klann (or A Tribe Beyond a Nation).
Their first album Grassroots was completed, but ultimately shelved when Easy-E passed away from complications related to AIDS a short month after his diagnosis in 1995. The guys dusted themselves off, replaced their pal Dante with rapper Taboo, and changed their name to the more familiar iteration we all know today. With the new trio in place, they began to work on their brilliant, critically acclaimed official (Interscope Records) debut album, Behind The Front. It was conscious, live – quite literally – and admirably self-aware. In the (commercial) hip-hop climate of 1997, especially in LA amongst a sea of gangsta music, it was a breath of fresh air. The album spawned hits like Fallin Up and Joints & Jams. This led to a second album, Bridging The Gap, which followed much of the same “style guide”, so to speak. Their next move was the introduction of Fergie, which dramatically shifted their sound, audience and tax brackets. Their third album, Elephunk, was the re-birth of BEP – the one that most parents and people born after 1991 will remember.
I think it’s important to acknowledge the sans-Fergie trio. Why they aren’t mentioned in the same vein as someone like the roots is beyond me. As far as hip-hop bands go, BEP’s Behind The Front is a gem that holds up unbelievably well! So take a moment, or two, and explore their older catalogue. We’ve taken the liberty of cooking up a mix for you to get you started.
Do your homework.