Black Eyed Peas concert ticketsSee Black Eyed Peas live in concert
Positive messages and break dancing are integral parts of hip-hop culture, but by 1990 those elements had been temporarily eclipsed by the tough gangster image and bleak but compelling lyrics of West Coast groups like N.W.A.. However, despite sharing a zip code, Black Eyed Peas' vision goes beyond the cracked-sidewalk vignettes and sampled gunfire of Los Angeles' gangster style. The socially conscious group's earliest connections go back to high school, when Will.I.Am and Apl de Ap were part of Tribal Nation, a break dancing crew. Eventually the pair focused more on music -- hip-hop, specifically -- and split off into their own as Atban Klann, their esoteric name an acronym for A Tribe Beyond a Nation. Eazy-E's Ruthless Records signed the group in 1992, but many in the Ruthless camp were puzzled by the group and the enthusiasm of Eazy, who had no problem reconciling his own gangster style with the peace-minded break dancing of At ban. Although an album was recorded, Ruthless shelved it, unsure how to market a group whose style wasn't dependent on violent braggadocio like N.W.A.
The death of Eazy-E in 1995 signalled the end of any further deals with Ruthless. Undaunted by the experience, Will and Apl recruited another dancer/MC, Taboo, and reappeared as Black Eyed Peas. BEP began playing shows around L.A., impressing hip-hop fans with their mic skills and dazzling them with their footwork as well. In 1998 their debut, Behind the Front, was released to critical acclaim -- not only for the trio of MCs, but for their live band and backing vocalist Kim Hill as well. Featuring guest appearances from Jurassic 5's Chali 2na, De La Soul, and Macy Gray, BEP's sophomore effort, Bridging the Gap, was released in 2000. The group's third album, 2003's Elephant, featured a new member, Fergie, who replaced Kim Hill.