The man they call Will.I.Am has one of the busiest hard drives in hip-hop these days, and he carries it with him in a case marked “Will’s Travel Kit.” Last weekend, the leader of the Black Eyed Peas slid behind the keyboard of a computer in the mobile music studio that follows him on tour, loaded up the drive and clicked through a directory of his dizzying workload.
[…] But the hard drive is more than music projects. Will clicked on a video file: “This is the Adidas campaign I did for the World Cup,” he said, bringing up an image of kids playing soccer on a dusty field with their kicks keyed to a pulsing, Latin-flavored soundtrack. “And this one is a short film I did with Snickers; they’re doing films because TiVo is killing commercials.” The vagaries of the advertising world are important to Will because the Black Eyed Peas are corporate America’s leading hip-hop partner and proud of it.
[…] The Peas have a rare spot in hip-hop. Separate in themes and vibe from the gangsta scene that long dominated rap, the group found it hard in the 1990s to capture a mass audience. While they were waiting for “positive” hip-hop to make its mark in America, they toured the rest of the world, which most rappers ignore or find unwelcoming.
“The world caught on before the United States caught on, and the beauty of being able to travel the world was that we turned around that whole concept that you have to be big here first,” Taboo said. “In Vietnam, we can go and get big audiences, and we’ve been going there for so long. A lot of other hip-hop groups don’t even go. And that helps with the advertising too. We have a global audience … we travel, and our name travels.”