As a 15-year-old rapper growing up in L.A. and dreaming of hip-hop superstardom, will.i.am wrote a song and titled it “#willpower.” Now seven Grammys and 33 million album sales later, The Black Eyed Peas frontman is gearing up for the release of a solo album bearing the same name as that glory-seeking track he authored as a kid. The first solo effort since The Black Eyed Peas’ platinum-selling 2010 release The Beginning, #willpower once again finds the songwriter/musician/producer fulfilling his dreams of music-world domination.
Photography by TheBridge.co
The follow-up to 2007’s solo CD Songs About Girls, #willpower builds on its predecessor’s bold fusion of hip-hop, R&B, and electronic/dance music to offer up the latest of will.i.am’s irresistibly infectious and genre-warping party anthems. The standard album’s 15 hook-heavy tracks showcase more than a dozen A-list guest artists, ranging from pop mega-stars (Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, Nicole Scherzinger, Miley Cyrus) to a highly inspired mix of up-and-comers (including Dutch dance diva Eva Simons, South Korean girl group 2NE1, singer/songwriter Skylar Grey and seven-year-old rapper Baby Kaely). Also featuring fellow BEP member apl.de.ap—and, perhaps most outrageously, the 70-piece, Prague-based Czech Symphony Orchestra—#willpower sees will.i.am expanding his sound by sharing production duties with leading-edge collaborators like Dr. Luke, Cirkut, Benny Blanco, Afrojack, Swedish House Mafia’s Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso, Lazy Jay, and FRESHM3N III.
Deftly embodying #willpower’s blend of edgy electro and melody-driven pop, the single “Scream & Shout” featuring Britney Spears premiered last fall and quickly shot to No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart and top three on Billboard’s Hot 100. Featuring Britney Spears, the relentless catchy dance track backs its singalong chorus with will.i.am’s trademark minimalist beats—a pairing that’s led will.i.am to hail “Scream & Shout” as “the most exciting song I’ve worked on in a long time.” Praised as “undeniable” by Rolling Stone and “weird in all the right ways” by Entertainment Weekly, the club anthem comes accompanied by an instantly iconic video that’s now racked up more than 175 million views on VEVO.
“Scream & Shout” arrived on the heels of “This Is Love,” a soulful single that saw its debut last June and ended up going platinum worldwide. Along with sky-reaching guest vocals by singer/songwriter Eva Simons, “This Is Love” offers a densely textured take on electro-house achieved in part by will.i.am’s teaming up with Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello on production (as well as enlisting an assemble of classical musicians).
While will.i.am pushes into a dizzying number of new directions on #willpower, there’s nothing surprising about his commitment to innovation itself. Throughout his career as a musician and producer, will.i.am has proven endlessly adventurous and preternaturally skilled at mining left-of-center genres as inspiration for his own brain-bending sound. That hypercreativity is evident not only on his solo albums (including 2001’s Lost Change and 2003’s Must B 21, along with Songs About Girls) and in his role in The Black Eyed Peas, but also in will.i.am’s work as a collaborator and producer for many of the entertainment industry’s biggest names (including Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Usher, David Guetta, Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey, and Busta Rhymes).
For will.i.am, the path to greatness began back in his teen years, when he was living in the projects of East Los Angeles busing across town each day to attend a magnet school in Pacific Palisades. After getting his start as part of a breakdancing crew named Tribal Nation, will.i.am reinvented himself as an MC and joined up with a few fellow breakdancers (including apl.de.ap) to form the hip-hop group Atban Klann while still in high school. In 1992, Atban Klann landed a deal with Ruthless Records (a label run by Eazy-E, who featured the group on his 1992 EP 5150: Home 4 tha Sick) and became a staple of the 1990s West Coast underground rap scene. Several years later, will.i.am and apl.de.ap recruited rapper/breakdancer Taboo, forming a trio that would soon bear the name The Black Eyed Peas.
Releasing their critically lauded debut album Behind the Front in 1998 and their sophomore album Bridging the Gap in 2000, The Black Eyed Peas added Fergie to their lineup in 2002. The group’s first album with Fergie (2003’s triple-platinum Elephunk) included smash singles like “Let’s Get It Started” (winner of the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards) and “Where Is The Love?” (The Black Eyed Peas’ first Top 10 hit), while 2004’s Monkey Business earned The Black Eyed Peas four nominations at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards and led them to score their second award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (for the platinum-selling “Don't Phunk with My Heart”). With will.i.am taking the helm as producer on nearly every track, The Black Eyed Peas continued to create albums that are each more groundbreaking than the last. Those powerhouses include 2010’s multiplatinum The Beginning and 2009’s The E.N.D. (which entered the Billboard Top 200 chart at #1, 9 million copies worldwide, won the group three new Grammy Awards, and proved the first album in two decades to yield five Top 10 singles).
Now that his ultra-inventive merging of hip-hop, electro, and R&B serves as the blueprint for contemporary pop music across the globe, will.i.am continues to bust boundaries by pushing into the world of technology (emerging as the first recording artist to send a song to Mars in conjunction with NASA’s Curiosity Mars Space Lab). Also an ardent philanthropist and recipient of two NAACP Image Awards, will.i.am plans to keep on tapping into new channels for his boundless passion and infinite energy. “From 15 on,” says will.i.am, “this song title has been floating around my life.” “It took #willpower to focus...It took #willpower to discipline myself...It took #willpower to be patient...And it will take #willpower to continue on my course that is set.”
WILL.I.AM #WILLPOWER ALBUM IS NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUR FAVORITE RECORD STORES NATIONWIDE EXCLUSIVELY UNDER MCA MUSIC, SPECIAL THANKS TO SMART, LIVE MORE!