Non-Violent Hip-Hop Tops the Charts

The Black Eyed Peas are proving that hip-hop with a positive message can sell.

In fact, it can sell and sell and sell. The band's latest single, “Where is the Love,” features Justin Timberlake, and is a No. 1 Top 40 single as well as in the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100.

Unlike many popular hip-hop tunes that glamorize violence and "bling bling," or flashy possessions, the song laments the violent nature of our culture and asks, “whatever happened to the values of humanity?” Its success is remarkable, because few popular hip-hop songs cross over to the Top 40 market and even fewer have positive messages. had a chance to ask founding Black Eyed Peas member “Taboo” Jaime Gomez a few questions about the band and their message.

Q: Tell us about your band. Who are the members and how did you come together?

A: There are three original members: Will.I.Am, Apl de Ap, Taboo, with one added member, Fergie. Apl came from the Philippines in 1989. The first person he met was Will. They then formed a dance group. It was called Tribal Nation. We then met in the L.A. night life, because I was from one of the most respected dance groups in L.A. as well. They were from a street dance crew called Tribal Nation and I was from a crew called Devine Tribal Brothers -- we were really good dancers.

Q: You have been categorized by some as "positive-message hip-hop." Do you consider that an accurate description?

A: We are a progressive hip-hop band. But our message is to be positive in general. Instead of us trying to speak to the whole world, we are talking to the individual: “Where is the love?" Whether you’re a kid from Compton, Sarajevo, Mexico or the Philippines, we want to do our part to bring people together and let people appreciate love in their own self on an individual level, and then the love will spread.

Q: Black-eyed peas is a favorite Southern dish. What made you decide to call your band that?

A: It was just a name that we felt was soulful, like our music.

Q: Your hit song "Where is the Love" laments the violent nature of our culture. "Kids act like what they see in the cinema. Yo, whatever happened to the values of humanity? Whatever happened to the fairness in equality? Instead of spreading love we spreading animosity." Have your lives been affected by violence?

A: My life was affected by a lot of things but nothing like Sept. 11.

Q: Justin Timberlake is featured on your song and now you are on tour with him. How did you come to work with him?

A: I met Justin at a club in Hollywood, again dancing -- and became good friends. Then we talked about working on some music. I showed Justin the original version of “Where is the Love” and Justin called back like a day later and had written a hook to it. A week later, they brought him into the famous BEP studio in Atwater Village and made the hit “Where is the Love.”  It only took like four hours.

Q: "Where is the Love" is a Top 40 and Billboard Hot 100 hit, yet you are a hip-hop band. The song is not on the hip-hop charts however. What gives?

A: It's on the pop charts all over the world so it's OK. It expanded the group as musicians.

Q: What is the inspiration for your positive message music?

A: Our inspiration comes from everything -- friends, family, life.

Q: Do you have religious affiliations?

A: We are more spiritual as opposed to being set on a religion.

Q: You're on tour with Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. Do you all hang out together?

A: Yes, we're like a family with Justin and his crew.

Q: Two of you, Will.I.Am and, were part of Tribal Nation, a breakdancing crew. What happened to breakdancing? Is there going to be a revival?

A: Yes, B-boying or Breakdancing is all in one and lives strong.

Q: Is it true that your success is, in part, attributed to “gangsta rapper” Eazy-E?

A: Yes, Eazy-E helped us grow as visionaries.

Q: Will.I.Am has his own show on MTV2 called "My Definition," where he collaborates with many other musicians. What is the philosophy/purpose of that show?

A: It's a freestyle form from a true freestyle MC who is able to split at the drop of a dime totally unrehearsed or scripted.

Q: What's next for you, Taboo?

A: I am just a Mexican kid from East L.A. and I will continue my work with the Black Eyed Peas. I also am working on a Spanish record. I want to break into the international market. I also want to try to get into acting.

Q: What is your relationship to hip-hop? Are you outsiders in the hip-hop world?

A: No, we get respect. We worked hard at it. I started breakdancing in 1988 and I got into hip-hop that way. Our message is positive and we get respect for it.

Q: What advice do you have for kids who want to succeed in the music business?

A: It takes a lot of performing to create a fanbase. Get a show together before you make a CD. You need a vision of who you are that you can only get by performing. You need more than just a CD because labels aren't making money, so it's hard to get them interested. Find yourself as a performer and then make a CD.