The Apollo Theater, New York, 6/9/05
The interesting thing about the Black Eyed Peas is that most hip-hop heads pishaw their popular (emphasis on pop), colorful, multi-culti outfit as a gimmick not worthy of 'real' hip-hop (emphasis on glocks and cocks). But actually, in the vein of hip-hop's beginnings – when it was all about pure, unadulterated partying, the Peas make the grade. The crew started their North American tour at the historic Apollo Theater.
BEP has been in existence for 10 years, but it wasn't until William 'will.i.am' Adams, Allen 'apl.de.ap' Pineda and Jaime 'Taboo' Gomez added one Stacy 'Fergie' Ferguson to their group in 2003 that they began to reach heights as awesome as their powerful break-dance moves. The fashionable foursome hit the Apollo and thoroughly rocked the audience (which even included a then-missing-in-action Dave Chappelle).
Talib Kweli opened the show with his rousing and politically astute raps. The crew – always well turned out – Fergie, just as trendy as future tour-mate Gwen Stefani but with better moves; will.i.am in some sort of fashion fusion of English aristocrat and b-boy; Taboo's long, lean brown fit, complete with thigh high boots; and Ap with his sexy Mohawk (in itself a fashion statement) – ripped into their seamless set of pop chart sweethearts for a solid hour and a half.
Like The Fugees, another hip-hopping, girl-sangin', mixed-gender crew, the Peas' live show is what may turn many non-believers into the choir. By using classic and contemporary hip-hop tunes mixed into their songs – everything from Public Enemy's 'Bring The Noise' to Fat Joe's 'Lean Back,' and even a little Snoop riff thrown in for good measure, the Peas were able to show their breadth of hip-hop knowledge, but also to keep even those not familiar with their songs entertained.
When they hit hits like "Where Is the Love?" "Don't Phunk With My Heart," "Let's Get It Started," and "Shut Up" the whole place transformed into a giant karoke session -- the balconies were shaking with people hollering the lyrics. The cool thing about the Peas is that its audience is as diverse as the group -- everybody from soccer moms and their offspring, to very trendy twentysomethings to grandpas who wouldn't be caught dead at a rap show, were all swaying to the same syrupy tunes.
A former break-dancing crew (incidentally, one of the pillars of hip-hop – and did you know they were signed to Eazy E's Ruthless Records before he died?), each member is a serious dancer, and each had their own time to shine with flips reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil. The Peas' funkin' multi-piece band included guitar, sax, flute, keys, bass, drums and trumpet, and perfectly complimented the onstage acrobatics. Just to keep it hip-hop, there was a DJ and MP3 player in addition to live instrumentation. It was just a big old jam.
As far as they go in pop's landscape, the Black Eyed Peas' show proves that they are in fact (in their words, deeds and moves) hip-hop for life. Like will.i.am said to the Apollo audience, the Peas ''keep it real'' by ''paying homage to the knowledge.''
Where is the love? Right on stage with the Peas, baby!
-Angela Bronner, guest reviewer
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