Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am has recorded his first solo project a soulful album that is also the soundtrack to an Internet film and part of a popular hip-hop record series.
Lost Change, due September 25, is the third installment in London label Barely Breaking Even's The Beat Generation series, which features hip-hop figures producing an album outside of major-label constraints.
Will.I.Am's contribution is a funky, jazzy record showcasing some of underground hip-hop's most skilled artists, including Planet Asia, Terry Dexter, Huck Fynn, Medusa and Burning Star.
The rapper recorded the album for Levi's Silver Tab's online movie "Lost Change," which can be viewed at www.lostchange.com and also airs in segments as television commercials. Onyx's Fredro Starr and the Black Eyed Peas are featured in the film.
"They wanted me to play the lead, but I couldn't because I was on tour," Will said Wednesday from Los Angeles. "So I asked if I could do the score for it. It took about a month to do it. I was so amped by the music I didn't want it to go to waste on an Internet film. So I hooked up with the cats at BBE and they were cool enough to want to put it out."
Will.I.Am raps on only a handful of the album's 15 tracks, though his vision is clearly followed by the guest rappers and musicians. With the exception of Madd Dogg, who was recruited after Will overheard him freestyle, everyone on Lost Change is close friends.
One of the tracks, "Lay Me Down," which features Dexter, gives listeners an idea of what his collaborations sound like in their early stages.
"We went to a studio to vibe on some sh--," Will said. "The way I write, I just tell whoever to mumble a melody or rap and don't say nothing and we'll change the mumbling to words later." Dexter did just that, and "then we started talking and the next thing you know it was six in the morning and she had to catch a plane. So that's what we ended up with."
Lost Change follows Jay Dee's Welcome to Detroit and Pete Rock's PeteStrumentals in The Beat Generation series. Albums from Marley Marl, Jazzy Jeff and others will follow.
Meanwhile, Will.I.Am, who guests on the Long Beach Dub Allstars' current hit, "Sunny Hours" (see "Yes, That Really Is Bradley Nowell On Dub Allstars' Latest"), has moved on to his full-time job with the Black Eyed Peas.
The trio will hit the road next month with Mystic, and they've already begun writing music for their third album, the follow-up to last year's Bridging the Gap, which featured guests Macy Gray, Wyclef Jean, Mos Def and De La Soul (see "Black Eyed Peas Talk 'Bridging The Gaps'").
"This one is going to be more about our growth as people," Will said. "This album is to showcase us as musicians and artists, while the last one was more about showcasing our placement in the industry and the connections we made through the first album."
Will.I.Am and bandmates Apl.De.Ap and Taboo are writing the album in a house in Bodega Bay, California.
"It's beautiful," Will said. "Our house is right on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We can hear the seals."
Will said he also plans to record a proper solo album and produce some of the artists he has worked with in the past. "I want to showcase musicians like Miles Davis and those guys used to do," he explained. "It's time for the musicians to step to the forefront of hip-hop."
Black Eyed Peas tour dates, according to Interscope:
- 9/13 - San Francisco, CA @ Justice League
- 9/14 - San Francisco, CA @ Justice League
- 9/15 - Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
- 9/16 - Seattle, WA @ Showbox
- 9/19 - Omaha, NE @ Ranch Bowl
- 9/20 - Urbana, IL @ Foellinger Auditorium
- 9/21 - Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
- 9/22 - Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theatre
- 9/23 - Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre
- 9/24 - Ithaca, NY @ Odyssey Night Club
- 9/25 - Boston, MA @ Axis
- 9/27 - New York, NY @ SOB's
- 9/28 - Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club
- 9/29 - Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero
- 9/30 - Charlotte, NC @ Tremont Music Hall
- 10/1 - Atlanta, GA @ Roxy
- 10/2 - New Orleans, LA @ House of Blues
- 10/3 - Dallas, TX @ Trees
- 10/4 - Austin, TX @ Stubb's BBQ
- 10/6 - Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
- 10/7 - Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre
- 10/8 - Scottsdale, AZ @ Cajun House
- 10/9 - Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
- 10/11 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre