Entering the backstage area on the first day of the Ultra Music Festival, I found myself in the middle of a commotion. The Black Eyed Peas had just jumped out of their tour bus and onto a golf cart, with will.i.am up front in ‘80s hip-hop shades and Fergie on the back fist pumping peppily. The media swarmed around the tiny vehicle, chasing them as they drove away like good paparazzi.
“It’s like chasing Britney in an ambulance!” a fellow reporter quipped.
We followed the pair into a press tent for an intimate Q&A, will.i.am answering intelligent and thoughtfully – if he weren’t a brilliant musician, he would make a perfect politician. Fergie, meanwhile, was bubbly, casual and fun, naturally the life of the party. And like virtually every celebrity you meet, both of them are rather short in person.
After the interview they headed for the stage where the Black Eyed Peas performed on an outdoor stage in front of thousands of fans.
After the makes-you-jump party anthem “Lets Get Retarded” came “My Humps,” a number Fergie was born to perform. The energetic blonde who was celebrating her 34th birthday, introduced the song saying, “This is for all my ladies out there who like to eat Cuban food. When I’m in Miami, I like to eat me some Cuban food!”
Later LMFAO joined the foursome for “I’m in Miami, Bitch.” As Fergie shook her humps all over the stage, you could feel the collective body heat of tens of thousands of young music-lovers and smell the fragrance of marijuana on the light breeze. For me, a hip-hop fan, it was a great way to start the two-day electronic music festival.
Here’s what will.i.am and Fergie had to say during their pre-show press conference:
Why are you at Ultra, an electronic music festival?
Will.i.am: In Europe, Australia, USA, Brazil, electronic music is this new youth-inspired energy and it reminds me of what hip-hop was like in the ‘80s. It’s up-tempo. It’s so 2009.
Our album is electro/hip-hop. It’s electro-influenced and celebrating the electro influence that’s taking over the world. David Guetta was one of the producers.
Fergie: The music that we do is a fusion. It’s Bollywood-inspired, electro-inspired. It has an international sound. We’re going for a sound with a lot of color pops of pink and green, like you see here.
What do you think of Miami?
Will.i.am: In America, Miami is the equivalent of St. Tropez in Europe. Miami is the meeting place to rock out. Just to see the melting pot, the inspiration from around the world, it’s a great opportunity for us.
Fergie: People are walking down the street in a swimsuit, in full club kid wear, and no one looks twice.
I want to have a house on the water someday, have a fiesta. And the Cuban food, I love it.
Can you tell us about your new single, “Boom Boom Pow?”
Will.i.am: I really enjoy making beats, and “Boom Boom Pow” is like an experiment. Instead of an introduction, first and second chorus and it’s done, it’s all one chorus. At the end there is a different beat to inspire them to keep it playing. I wanted to experience the dance floor, the excitement that it inspires. It’s pretty fresh.
Fergie: We’re always trying to push the envelope. It’s kind of left; not what was predicted. We’re all kind of misfits.
Since you are all such strong personalities and huge talents, is it hard to get along as a group?
Will.i.am: If we were doing it for the fame or for the money, it wouldn’t work. We’re friends who support each others’ dreams and inspirations. So our individual talents only make us stronger, not weaker.
Fergie: It’s so natural, so organic, like being with old friends from school.
What is your new record like?
Will.i.am: 2008 was my time to inspire the youth to activate themselves. Now that the people has seen what America is about from the people, I just want to entertain cats, not stay on a political platform. This record is to bring people together, to inspire them through actions rather than through words.
The DJ, that’s the most important thing in music right now. We’re making records to feel good and dance. You have the single, the revamp, a capella, and the DJ has the tools to rock “Boom Boom Pow” in all different ways.
Fergie: This record is based on the clubs and that’s where it will live. I wanted to get the BPMs faster. I’m excited because I’ll get a good workout with every show.
Will.i.am: People need to have an escape from their issues and we feel this is a very positive escape to get on the dance floor and a have a good time.
Do you have any plans for further political activism?
Will.i.am: On our website Blackedyedpeas.com there is a lot of information on how I’m working on going green with Al Gore, on how cars compare to electric and how to convert to solar panels. There’s a whole bunch of things we are doing to push green forward.
We’re thirsty and we’re drinking from a water bottle, it’s very hypocritical. So we have to enlighten people to use glass instead of plastic
What are your plans while you are here in Miami?
Fergie: A bunch of our friends are in town. We’re going to go dancing, go to the Fountainebleu. William is DJing.
My favorite Cuban restaurant is a 24-hour Cuban joint across the street from the Delano. The reason I love it is it’s open 24 hours, so no matter what time I’m flying in or flying out I can get some Cuban food.
Will.i.am: I go wherever the chongas take me.