Thursday, June 27, 2013

Black Eyed Peas "Joints And Jam"

The Black Eyed Peas have for so long been slagged as the creators of hugely popular, vapid earworms, that I'd kind of forgotten that there was a time when they were heralded as some kind of alternative hip hop rebirth.

I mean, I'd even forgotten that I'd seen them in concert, until I was writing yesterday's post about seeing them in their pre-Fergie incarnation.

Can you imagine The Black Eyed Peas, as they are now, as part of the Punk rockest festival of the summer?  It barely makes sense.

But for a second, wipe out your memory of those massive hits like "My Humps" and "I Got A Feeling" and listen to "Joints And Jam" below.  And then put it in context.

This track was released in that period of time when popular, commercial hip hop had been dominated for the several years previous, by Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre and others who were delivering darker lyrics and darker messages.

"Joints And Jam" harked back to some of the more positive, thoughful, inclusive tracks from the late 80s, early 90s, from groups like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

Seeing them at Warped made some level of sense, because it seemed like (similar to many of the bands there that day) they had a message and they were outside of the norm.

But in retrospect, here's where it probably turned a corner.

At the time, The Black Eyed Peas were a trio, and they worked the crowd into a fun, noisy mess with their songs and a lot of old school breakdancing stage moves.

But for a few of their songs, they needed a female vocalist.

It's not unusual for a group to employ a backup singer to tour with them, as was the case here.

What struck me, was the crowd's reaction to her.

For her parts, she stepped forward with this level of confidence and bravado, and delivered some walloping, powerful vocals.  She was a professional singer, as opposed to the guys in the group who were rappers, and sang a little.  The difference in talent on that count was apparent, and the crowd responded.

In an unusual move for someone who's essentially a support-player, they let her talk to the crowd between songs.  Whipping them up into a frenzy with some practiced banter, all based on this "I'm a strong female and I don't give a fuck" persona that she needed to project for the songs.

The crowd ate it up.  It became the most memorable part of the act.

At the time The Black Eyed Peas were a trio, but it wasn't lost on me, and I'm sure not on them, that adding a different gender, personality and look into the group created a whole new dynamic.

During the making of the next album, they ended up taking a vocalist they had brought in to cut one duet, and made her part of the group.  The success of adding Fergie no doubt changed the direction of their sound from Old School hip hop saviors, to creator of populist, dumbed-down, sexualized MASSIVE hitmakers.

I suppose if you want a career, that's what you do.

But forget what you know about the group and listen to the track below.  Hear it as a fun, summerish jam, and wonder where they might have gone instead.

Hear the song on Youtube.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that is truly surreal. In a good way.