Ballin' with MVP and will.i.am
In the latest edition of WWE.com's Superstar to Superstar, SmackDown's United States and WWE Tag Team Champ MVP chats with rapper, lyricist, producer and frontman of the Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am. MVP digs deep with will.i.am. to find out the inspiration for his solo album, Songs About Girls, which was released in September. Catch will.i.am's performance on the American Music Awards Sunday, Nov. 18, on ABC.
MVP: Will, how you doing, man? MVP… SmackDown.
will: What's up?
MVP: Well, I was fortunate enough to be picked to interview you for Superstar to Superstar. So I have some questions for you. Are you ready?
will: Yeah. What's up?
MVP: I'm very, very pleased to have been able to watch your explosion because the first time I saw you guys was on the Warped Tour in 1999. It was really cool to watch your explosion -- and I say explosion because the group Black Eyed Peas has blown up. How do you feel about that?
will: I think it's awesome to be able to ride the wave and maneuver myself, just staying afloat. A lot of people think we're in business, so…
MVP: On a personal note, I used to work for years out on South Beach, running security in nightclubs and doing bodyguard work. One night you, Tab and Fergie came into Mansion, and I was assigned to bodyguard you guys while you were in the one room. It's kind of interesting how at that point, I was a virtual nobody and now I've come into my own success as a celebrity, and it's so realistic to me. It's mind-numbing sometimes how quickly celebrity can take off. How do you deal with the success, being able to say that at one point you were the proverbial starving artist and now you're considered one of the top acts and producers in the country?
will: I try not to take it too seriously, you know? Because you can let it get to your head, the quality of entertainment. So I like to always stay connected and see what people gravitate toward and not let the celebrity separate me from people because at the end of the day, you're entertaining those people. To know what those people are craving and feeling at the moment, is to always stay relevant, you know? Especially in this day and age, as soon as you put yourself on a pedestal, you don't have that connection, you know?
MVP: Yeah, I understand exactly what you're saying. One of the things we pride ourselves on as WWE Superstars is connecting with the audience. What we do in the ring, we're reacting from the energy of the crowd. So we have to be connected to our fans just the same way you have to be connected to yours. A lot of WWE fans are huge followers of Black Eyed Peas, but I know recently you had a solo joint come out. What can the fans expect from your solo joint? Do you have the same energy and intensity that the Black Eyed Peas albums have, or are you venturing out in a different direction?
will: It's a little different, but not too different to where I'm alienated. My solo record, it has to be a little different. It can't be the same, just me minus the other three. So just in respect to the Black Eyed Peas and what I've built, I've had to be adventurous and try to take our audience to a different musical place.
MVP: With Fergie's success and the huge anticipation of your joint, there are a lot of rumors going around that the Peas are breaking up. Do you want to put those to rest?
will: Oh no, Black Eyed Peas aren't breaking up. Everything is all great. We just got finished touring the globe.
MVP: OK. On our shows we do some pretty outrageous things. What is one of the most outrageous things that has happened to you onstage while performing? Or how about one of the most outrageous things you've done?
will: With the music, we inspire people to get moving. We don't do anything crazy, like I ain't getting naked and s***. To me that's crazy!
MVP: (laughs) So for the most part, you have fun, get loose, but nothing too outrageous. Fair enough. … Let me ask you this… You've quickly become recognized as one of music's top producers. I'm curious, who is your favorite person to collaborate with or who have you had the most fun working with?
will: Michael Jackson is my high right now.
MVP: I remember when Michael Jackson as an act, as a talent, was untouchable and was in a realm all his own. How does it feel to be working with him?
will: That's like you getting in the ring with… yeah, dude, for me, Michael Jackson. He's not Hulk Hogan. To me, it would be like "Macho Man" Randy Savage. To me, like, Elvis is equivalent to Hulk Hogan. And Michael Jackson would be like who, I don't know.
MVP: Working with someone like Michael Jackson, intimidated might be the wrong word, but for lack of a better word, do you sometimes find yourself a little awe-struck when producing or working with him?
will: At first I was, but you can't be. If you are then you're jeopardizing the outcome of whatever it is you're working on. It took a while for me and it took a lot of mental strength to just let it go and forget about it. You have to separate it. You have to forget everything that he meant to you and what he symbolized. You've just got to go out and do the work.
MVP: I dig where you're coming on that. … Now let's talk about your tour. What are your plans to tour to promote your new joint, man?
will: Well, the Peas aren't going to tour for a long, long time. We just finished touring, and I'm not going to tour like that. I'll do promotional tours, like I'll go out and do promos.
MVP: Could we look for any surprise, one night gigs here and there?
will: Of course, definitely.
MVP: What song on the album would you say you're most proud of? And if you do have a song you're most proud of, what would you say inspired that?
will: "Fantastic." The whole record is about breaking up, getting over it, it being over. The record tells the story.
MVP: OK, so we can get the whole story just listening to it. All right. Now let me just switch gears here for a second. You mention growing up in the projects and there, you know, sometimes you are going to get into scraps. Did you get into some scraps growing up?
will: Not in my projects. I was the dude that … I never got in a fight … never in my whole life. Because I was the dude in the projects that everyone was like, ‘That's that dude Willie, do that rap you did the other day!'
MVP: Ahhh, OK, you were that guy! I'm digging that. This is something I've been wanting to ask you about for a long time. You share the "will.i.am" moniker with one of my all-time favorite jazz musicians, and that's John Coltrane. How heavily have you been influenced musically by Coltrane and jazz in general?
will: See, I didn't even know that John Coltrane's middle name was William until Wikipedia pointed that out, but I've always loved John Coltrane's music. I love jazz and my favorite album is A Love Supreme.
MVP: I'm really fond of his rendition of Favorite Things. I'm a huge jazz fan. I like Black Eyed Peas because what you do, musically and lyrically, is so different from everything else that's out now. You bring something that's totally fresh and exciting and different from everything else, and I really enjoy it. Obviously there's a huge number of people out there who enjoy it as well. But my last question is would you like to come to a WWE show in the future, maybe come down, show me a little love, represent, you know?
will: You know what? I've always wanted to go to a wrestling match, but we were pretty poor. My next-door neighbor used to go to the Royal Rumble.
MVP: So you grew up watching WWE then?
will: Yeah, dude, I used to be a big WWE fan. You can tell by my knowledge. George "The Animal" Steele, Andre the Giant was dope, British Bulldog, Iron Sheik …but I like Junkyard Dog, that's my boy. And Koko B. Ware. And Randy… yeeeeeah… "Macho Man."
MVP: I know you're busy, man. I really enjoyed talking to you and anytime, you have an open invitation to come to a WWE show and you will be my personal guest.
will: All right.
MVP: All right, well you hold it down. Take care. Thank you very much.