Black Eyed Peas Talk "Bridging The Gaps"

After coming to prominence following the release of its 1998 debut, "Behind The Front," the life-affirming hip-hop trio known as Black Eyed Peas is preparing its long-awaited second album, "Bridging The Gaps," for a September release.

The group's more rock-tinged numbers such as "Head Bobs" endeared Black Eyed Peas to a crossover audience and got the trio invited onto several high-profile and diverse tours, including "Smokin' Grooves," the Sno-Core tour, the Vans Warped tour, the Lyricist Lounge tour, and a stint with Outkast. "We basically did tours for every market but country," the group's Will I Am recently told MTV News.

Once the touring subsided, the trio hit the studio in September to begin recording an album they hoped would live up to its title-slash-mission statement.

"The album's title means we're bridging the gap between rock-hop and hip-hop," Will explained. "There are a lot of cats that don't like rock, and a lot of rock cats that don't

like hip-hop. So we're bridging that gap.

"First, we're coming with 'B.E.P. Empire,' a song we did with [Gang Starr's DJ] Premier, to let people know that we're back," Will said of the first single, which is scheduled to arrive in stores a month before the album drops. "We wanted to work with Premier on our first album. What we wanted to do was get our band and have him do the drums, and look at Premier as a drummer, and our band would play over that." [RealAudio]

By November of last year, songs with Wyclef Jean and Macy Gray were on tape and ready to go. "But then we had to redo a song," Will said. "We did a Beatles cover with Macy and couldn't get the song cleared." The group then returned to the studio with the singer to cut another track.

Although Gray's Grammy Award-nominated debut album, "On How Life Is," has helped her start an impressive solo career, her presence on "Bridging The Gaps" is not a mercenary

attempt on the band's part to include more marketable elements on its disc.

"She was on our last album," Will explained. "She didn't even have a record deal when she did our first joint, and she's a good friend. All the collaborations are with friends. Even if Macy Gray wasn't blowing up, she would still be on the album.

"It took a lot to make that [first] album," he continued. "Songs like 'Karma,' and 'Positivity,' and 'Say Goodbye' really had in-depth subject matter. It was stuff we saw growing up.

"This one is basically our experience from dropping the first album until now," he concluded. "It's been a lot of touring and a lot of performing so a lot of songs on this album are very up-tempo, energetic, good-time songs."

The "B.E.P. Empire" single is slated to hit stores sometime in August, according to the group's label.