Today, super-producer/fashion icon/sometimes-hologram will.i.am put out a new record, #willpower, a dance-pop supernova of an album that features Miley Cyrus, Justin Beiber, k-pop stars 2NE1, and a long list of other huge acts. The album is pretty much what you’d expect – a lot of rave beats and huge anthemic hooks and simple one-liners sprinkled throughout. And the truth is, it works for him, for whatever he’s become in the past few years.
will.i.am wasn’t always like this, though. When he started out, will was signed to Eazy E’s Ruthless Records and made jazzy beats as the producer for Black Eyed Peas, who were then a backpack rap outfit from LA. By the time Fergie came along and helped the BEPs transition into a global pop super-squad and headline the Super Bowl halftime show, will’s hip-hop roots were all but long gone.
But, there was a stretch there in the mid-2000s – up until 2009, when the Peas released their career-defining The E.N.D. – when will re-emerged as a premiere hip-hop producer, working with everyone from conscious minds like Talib and Common to money-getters like The Game and Flo Rida. To celebrate will’s new album and take a look back at his hip-hop history, we’ve compiled a list of will.i.am’s best beats. — Additional reporting by Sean Ryon.