“For those folks who haven’t seen our live performances before, it’s going to be even more exciting, with more energy, more of that Black Eyed Pea rawness, that people get excited to witness,” founding member Taboo says about the concert scheduled for Friday, June 4, at the FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park.
Like much of the music industry, the trio has been forced to rethink its model in the New Normal. No strangers to reinvention, they've found the creativity required to connect with fans invigorating.
Despite the prolonged pause, Taboo says the group feels more in tune with its “Peabodies” than ever.
“Tik Tok, YouTube, and social media, in general, has been a blessing for us because it has kept us visible in a time period when we weren't able to tour,” he says, pointing to the viral Tik Tok challenge sparked by the Shakira-featuring single “Girl Like Me" as proof of the power fans' authentic connection can wield in the digital age.
“The 'Girl Like Me' challenge blew up, and it kept our songs alive," Taboo says. "It was a natural progression of people exchanging and tapping into their own version of what that song meant to them.”
As the group embraced these new formats, Taboo has particularly enjoyed seeing many of the Black Eyed Peas' older cuts pop up in his feed, including the sight of 2006’s “Pump It” returning as a makeup-tutorial anthem.
“It keeps you going,” the 45-year-old rapper and singer says.
There's even a digital component to the Miami gig: The band has partnered with Melrose Media to stream Friday's concert in 4K via beplive.com on June 11. In lieu of, as Taboo puts it, “all the bells and whistles” usually synonymous with a BEP show, online viewers will be able to experience an immersive perspective, with three dedicated cameras focused on each member.
“It will be special,” Taboo promises.
As a mosaic of Latin culture, Miami is a fitting place for the Black Eyed Peas' return to live performance. Translation showcases the band's move into Latin pop. Featuring some of Latin music’s most in-demand names — including Shakira, J Balvin, Ozuna, and Maluma — the album is a direct reflection of the band’s upbringing, says Taboo, who is of Mexican and Native American descent. Along with bandmate Will.i.am, Taboo grew up in East Los Angeles surrounded by the sounds of cumbia, ranchera, salsa, and merengue.
“We were immersed as kids in all things Spanish music. That’s what Los Angeles was based on in the areas that we grew up in," he explains. "And then we had hip-hop, and that was our bridge and the way we connected to the world, but we’ve always had that Latin connection.”
It is a defining characteristic of the band members, who have traversed genres and sounds in their 25-year career, to shake things up along the way and keep things interesting not just for their fans but for themselves. From the soulful Elephunk era in 2003 to the futuristic, 808-utilizing “Boom Boom Pow” moment on The E.N.D. to 2020’s Latin-infused Translation, the band has met each decade head-on, ready to make it their own.
Translation also cements newcomer J. Rey Soul as part of the Black Eyed Pea family. Originally joining the band as a vocalist after being discovered by Apl.de.ap in 2018 during his stint as a judge on the first season of The Voice: Philippines, Soul is the latest in a strong line of female vocalists to perform and record with the group, following the likes of Kim Hill, Ingrid Dupree, Debi Nova, Noelle Scaggs, and, of course, Fergie.
“She’ll be there,” Taboo assures of Soul's appearance at the Miami show. “That’s the beautiful thing: In every era, we can always give birth to new people and new artists, and the conduit is always me, Will.i.am, and Apl.”
As for whether Translation indicates what fans can expect from the Black Eyed Peas in the future, Taboo teases that while the reggaeton and Afrobeat vibes will remain, he and his bandmates have found themselves increasingly drawn to the soul and hip-hop sounds of Black Eyed Peas’ past.
“It’s always cool to reinvent the wheel and try new things, and see what collaborations we can do that are different and unexpected.”
One thing is certain: The band won't be going on any more hiatuses, having learned their lesson the hard way after the extended 2011-2018 break.
“We made a big mistake,” Taboo admits, “and we could have been a casualty if we hadn’t come back the way we did. Now we are part of the Sony family. We won’t be letting off the gas.”
While Taboo won't divulge whether any special guests will make an appearance on Friday, he says the band is just excited once again to be able to greet fans — if at a distance.
“It’s been a year and a half since we’ve performed. I think I'm personally going to get emotional when we perform 'Where Is the Love?' because that’s my favorite song to perform, but also because of the sentiment and the feeling that it evokes," he says. "The power of that song, given all the stuff going on around the world, and the things that we went through with the pandemic and the protests, and the injustices, and all the things we suffered in 2020, I think it will bring a lot out for me.”
Black Eyed Peas. 8 p.m. Friday, June 4, at the FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305- 358-7550; blackeyedpeas.com. Tickets cost $60 to $190 via livenation.com.