As Atban Klann, the group signed to Ruthless Records (run by Eazy-E), but their album was never released because Ruthless did not consider the positive themes reflected in the group's music to be marketable to their audience.
After Eazy-E died of AIDS in 1995 (see 1995 in music), Atban Klann reformed as the Black Eyed Peas and released a debut, Behind the Front (1998, 1998 in music) that earned the group (and their accompanying live band) critical acclaim. The hit single from the album was "Joints and Jams", and featured on the Bulworth soundtrack. Their second album was 2000's Bridging the Gap (2000 in music).
Their breakthrough album, Elephunk, was released in 2003, featuring a new female vocalist, Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson, previously a cast member of Kids Incorporated and a member of teen pop band Wild Orchid. She is the replacement of background singer Kim Hill, who departed the band during 2000.
From Elephunk came the anti-war anthem "Where is the Love?", which became their first major hit, peaking at #8 on the US Hot 100, but topping the charts practically everywhere else, including six weeks at #1 in the UK where it became the biggest-selling single of 2003. The album subsequently spawned "Shut Up", which peaked at UK #2 (despite being referred to by one reviewer as "the single most vacuous, pointless, vile and generally loathsome song in a generation") and topped the charts in many other European countries including France and Germany. Indeed the band have enjoyed greater mainstream success in Europe than in the US with Elephunk going Top 10, gold and (sometimes multi-)platinum in the UK, Germany and many other European markets, yet ultimately failing to break the US Top 10, although it did go platinum there. The third single from the album, "Hey Mama" hit the Top 10 in the UK, Germany and several other European countries, and reached the Top 30.
During Black Eyed Peas' concert tour in Asia in 2004, Apl.de.ap's life story was featured in a weekly Filipino TV drama special called Maalaala Mo Kaya (Do You Think You Can Remember), which explained his childhood with his poor family in Pampanga, Philippines, back then when he was teased "baluga" (a derogatory word for Negro), before sadly parting with them to live a better life in the US at the age of 14. "The Apl Song", with the chorus written in Tagalog (Filipino), from their album Elephunk, tells the story of Apl.de.ap. The Tagalog lyrics and backing melody were based on the song "Balita", an original composition of the 1970s Filipino folk rock group Asin. The group eventually produced an exclusive video of the song in the Philippines while touring the country as part of their album promotion.
The Black Eyed Peas' song "Let's Get Retarded" was restyled as "Let's Get it Started" for an NBA Finals worldwide commercial. New, less offensive, lyrics gave the tune a basketball theme, as opposed to the original's theme dealing with getting heavily intoxicated and partying, and the spot featured Carlos Santana. The revised song had great success as a single, particularly on the iTunes music download service. The Black Eyed Peas are also featured in The Urbz: Sims in the City videogame as characters. They re-recorded "Let's Get it Started" and "Shut Up" as well as other songs in "simlish" for the game also.
Their next album, Monkey Business, was released on June 7, 2005. The album's first single, "Don't Phunk with My Heart", was a hit in the U.S., reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100. This is the highest peak yet of their career. The song also reached three in the U.K., and five in Canada, and number one in Australia. (Some radio stations, skittish about complaints of obscenity, play an alternative version, "Don't Mess with My Heart".) "My Humps", another song from the album, immediately achieved commercial success in the U.S. and fairly substantial radio play despite the sexually suggestive content. The album Monkey Business itself debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, selling over 295,000 copies in its first week.
Some commentators have noted the consistent theme of black men and blonde women in Black Eyed Peas videos, raising the question of racial fetishes or jungle fever. Whether or not it has been a conscious decision, more recent videos have featured a wider range of racial groups.
In September 2005, The Black Eyed Peas released an iTunes Essentials playlist of their greatest hits, as well as some that were re-recorded especially for purchase through iTunes. The playlist includes popular songs such as "Don't Lie", "Shut Up", and a new version of "Where Is the Love?". It also has small stories containing info and commentary about the songs and how the group first met.
The group is not without their detractors. One notable critic had this to say about the Peas: "But what truly sends the Black Eyed Peas above and beyond? What elevates them to a state of worthlessness eclipsing similar no-talent acts like, say, C + C Music Factory or Hilary Duff? Sheer affect. The peas are a complete label fabrication, a multicultural rainbow coalition bedecked in what appears to be 'eccentric,' thrift-store, keep-it-real found-fashion but is actually assembled by a dedicated team of stylists. The band doesn't really sing -- it 'raps.' Its members don't really dance, they cavort like epileptics trying to hump a sack of greased light bulbs. They can't keep any sense of rhythm, their vocal delivery is amateurish, and they're so overexposed that even your mother is tired of seeing them. And yet they won't go away.
Although a bit caustic, it underpins the hatred directed at the Peas.
|Behind the Front
|Bridging the Gap
US Sales: 4.2 million WW Sales: 11.7 million
|1998||"Joints & Jam"||Behind the Front|
|1998||"Fallin' Up"||Behind the Front|
|1998||"¿Que Dices?"||Behind the Front|
|2000||"BEP Empire"||Bridging the Gap|
|2000||"Weekends"||Bridging the Gap|
|2000||"Get Original"||Bridging the Gap|
|2001||"Request + Line"||Bridging the Gap|
|2003||"Where Is the Love?" (feat. Justin Timberlake)||Elephunk|
|2004||"Let's Get It Started"||Elephunk|
|2004||"The Apl Song"||Elephunk|
|2005||"Don't Phunk with My Heart"||Monkey Business|
|2005||"Pump It"||Monkey Business|
|2005||"Don't Lie"||Monkey Business|
|2005||"My Humps"||Monkey Business|