LOS ANGELES — The multiplatinum-selling, Grammy-winning, omnipresent Black Eyed Peas just shot a music video on a less-than-shoestring budget for a song their label has little plans for.
Why? Because the track, “Bebot,” has special meaning for Peas rapper/producer Apl.de.Ap.
Over two days in Los Angeles earlier this month, the Peas made a video for “Bebot,” a funky dance track from their 2005 LP Monkey Business. Written and rapped in the Filipino language Tagalog by founding member and self-appointed Philippines cultural ambassador Apl, “Bebot” is a fan favorite even though it’s mostly incomprehensible to the Peas’ audience.
” ‘Bebot’ basically means a ‘hot chick,’ ” Apl explained to MTV News. “You walk in a club, and you see girls dancing — that’s bebot.
“It’s funny,” he continued. “I’d be walking around in London and, like, three black girls just come up to me, like ‘Bebot, bebot, be-bebot, bebot — yo, that’s my joint!’ Just like other songs [where] you can’t really understand the words, the melody and the beat keep you going. That’s music.”
The video was a passion project for Apl who, with some help from fellow Peas Will.I.Am, Fergie and Taboo, funded the production independently.
“It’s not just about doing a video,” Apl said proudly. “Filipino culture is like a community movement, and it feels good to represent my culture and to be embraced by my people.”
This community vibe is reflected in the video. Under the direction of budding filmmaker Patricio Ginelsa, two separate treatments were shot: a modern-day house party/summer barbecue set-up; and another culturally themed, historically referenced scene.
“Actually, it’s based on true history,” Ginelsa said of the latter, which was set in 1938. “Stockton, California, [was] considered Little Manila, where Filipinos were farmers back in the day. I took Apl’s farmer roots and placed him in the role of a Filipino farmer. Back then, Filipino farmers had their day jobs, but all we looked forward to, though, was getting in our best suits and going to the best clubs — looking nice, and meeting all the bebots!”
This isn’t the first time Ginelsa has worked with the Peas. He directed the video for “The Apl Song,” a tender, Tagalog love letter from 2003′s Elephunk, which Apl wrote and dedicated to his family in his homeland (see “Peas Freeze Solo LPs To Keep Things Shakin’ Off The Richter” ).
“I like when Pat mixes [in] the historical, cultural parts in my songs. So that’s important to represent me right, just the way I am,” Apl said.
Also representing as extras in the video were prominent Filipino-American artists and performers including “American Idol” alum Jasmine Trias. “I’m so proud that they’re representing the Philippines mainstream, ’cause we need that representation,” she said. “More power and success to all of them, and just to be a part of it, it’s definitely an honor.”
Rafael Toledo, frontman for the Washington, D.C.-based rock band the Speaks agreed. “Just to be asked to be part of this is a big deal,” Toledo said. “The Black Eyed Peas are representing throughout the whole world, not just the Filipino community, and to be a part of the video is just a freaking cool thing.”
Making their own video even impressed DJ E-Man, assistant program director and music director of Los Angeles’ Power 106 radio station. “I think it’s dope that the Black Eyed Peas even did something like this because they’re very powerful people right now and very influential in mainstream music,” he said. “They basically are letting people know it doesn’t matter what language, what kind of music — it’s still music. Music is a universal language.”
DJ E-Man even called out the Peas’ label for not pushing “Bebot” to radio. “I actually talked to the label, they were in my office. And they were like, ‘What are you doing today?’ and I was like, ‘I’m going to the Black Eyed Peas video shoot.’ They said, ‘Really, for what song?’ I said, ‘Bebot.’ They said, ‘But we’re not really working the record.’ And I was telling them, ‘Yo, it’s gonna be a dope video. I know it.’ “