Black Eyed Peas
With nods to the jazz-influenced sound and positive thinking of crews like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, Black Eyed Peas re-forge the bonds between hip hop and older forms of black music — a pattern that mirrors the post-punk/post-rock migration toward American roots music. Like many Bay Area collectives and, perhaps most famously, the Roots, the three Peas MCs record and perform with a live band, eschewing sample-heavy tracks in favor of composition and improvisation (even as they revisit Tribe, the Meters, and Blondie). The Peas' sound reveals their California origins; their grooves will sit right with fans of Oakland's Hieroglyphics, as the group digs beats inspired by old-school R&B, funk, and jazz, even as it taps L.A.'s border-crossing current with a few Latin-spiced tracks.
The range of influences both underlies BEP's forward-thinking outlook and its multicultural background — leader Will.I.Am is black and fellow MCs Apl.de.Ap and Taboo are Filipino/black and American Indian/ Mexican, respectively. Critical of the destructive values some of their mainstream contemporaries put forth, on 1998's Behind the Front the Peas dismantled East-West rivalry, thug posturing, and the cycle of death in the hip hop community. Far more comfortable in thrift store threads, they face off against the Hilfiger-clad clones the industry keeps churning out. Onstage, the three MCs pay homage to hip hop's origins — freestyling lines and dropping their mikes to hit the floor with acrobatic dance moves — and look to its future as they boot yesteryear's turntables for a live band. They remain one of the most interesting — and paradoxical — developments on the hip hop horizon. With nothing on shelves since Behind the Front, BEP has been in the studio since last year, which means now heads get a chance to bob to the new.
Black Eyed Peas perform with Felonious, Rowdy Rahz, and Latyrx with DJ Z-Trip on Thursday, Feb. 17, at 8 p.m. at the Maritime Hall, 450 Harrison (at First Street), S.F. Tickets are $18-20; call 974-0634.