Interview: Taboo of The Black Eyed Peas
Tue, 30 Jun 2009 12:24:52
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Black Eyed Peas MC Taboo is up early today.
With everything that he's got going on, it's not surprising at all. Sometimes for performers as dynamic as he is, 24 hours just isn't enough in one day. Right now, The Black Eyed Peas are tearing up the charts with their epic new album The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies), and he couldn't be happier about that.
He's equally excited about his turn in Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li [20th Century Fox] though. In the film, which drops on DVD June 30, Taboo plays Vega and, as a lifelong fan of the series, he still can't believe that he's kicking it on screen in the Streetfighter universe.
With a big smile, Taboo spoke to ARTISTdirect.com in this exclusive interview about Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, The E.N.D. and much more—all before 7:30am. The man has even more stuff to do too…
What did you like about Vega?
Well, first and foremost, it was amazing being a part of a franchise as prestigious as Street Fighter is. I grew up on it as a kid. As a martial artist, it wasn't simply about being a part of the video game franchise though. It was really great working with Dion Lam, who is hands down one of the greatest stunt coordinators that I've ever worked with. Also it was amazing collaborating with Andrzej Bartkowiak the director and all of my people at Fox. Being involved with the camp drew me in as well because I got to know everybody. They talked to me about how the film was going to be different from the previous movie and how we were going to add a new twist to it. I was like, "Wow, I really want to be a part of this!" In the future, I want to be more involved in film overall.
Would you say this was a dream project for you all around?
It was such a dream project. Coming from the music world, I got the opportunity to really get my feet wet in the acting world with this. It was one of the greatest experiences that I've ever had, and it sparked a fire in me. When The Peas start settling down, I know I want to go that route again.
Did you play the game a lot to get into Vega's head? How did you immerse yourself in this world?
I trained with a K-1 fighter, and I got my core back. I trained Muy Thai kickboxing because I wanted to get physically into my career. If I was going to be on wires, do stunts, have form or technique on screen, I wanted to be prepared. So I prepared myself in that form on the physical level. When it came to preparing myself to become Vega, I wasn't doing any Shakespearian acting or anything [Laughs]. It was more of a physical character.
Was it fun kicking ass on screen?
It was amazing, dude! I got the opportunity to work very closely with Dion. Like I said, he's the best! He's worked with Jet Li, Jackie Chan and some of the greatest martial artists in Hong Kong. For me, it was like a dream come true—something like working with the greatest producer. I built a great relationship with him as a friend, and I eventually want to work with him on different projects and, hopefully, we can do a video together.
You probably picked up a few new moves too.
I picked up some little things here and there. I learned how the camera works as far as wiring and stunts, how to fall and how to be quick at the drop of a dime. Performing in front of a camera is very different than performing in front of an audience.
Is the same rhythm present when you're acting and when you're on stage?
Yeah, because it's all on a beat. You have to hit your mark on a certain beat. When you're doing a fight sequence, there's a count. The kick is coming at you and the block needs to come next. Everything is a count, and I felt comfortable with it. I had to do it a couple of times, but after awhile I got the rhythm of it.
Are you drawing from the same creative space that you do when you play live?
Definitely, I just immersed myself with advice from Michael Clarke Duncan and Kristin Kreuk. They're great actors, and to be in a film with them was incredible. They made me feel welcome with open arms, and I felt very comfortable on set.
Do you feel like the film had the vibe of a more classic action movie?
They wanted to reinvent the whole Streetfighter franchise. It had such a great twist to it that I was so honored to be a part of it.
Were you working on The E.N.D. while you were filming?
We were coming up with concepts at that time. We weren't really recording because Will.i.am was working on the Barack Obama "Yes We Can" campaign, and Fergie was doing the Duchess tour. We were all pretty busy doing our individual projects, but we were always in touch and showing support for each individual project. We were talking about The E.N.D. at that time. We were conceptualizing it, and thinking about what we wanted to come with.
It sounds like a futuristic pop record.
It's just amazing. The fact that "Boom Boom Pow" took off blows me away because it's such a left-field song. If you think about our previous work, it's very different. We came out with "Where Is the Love" and it was a phenomenal monster, but "Boom Boom Pow" is so different from what people have heard from us that it was even a bigger monster than we ever imagined it would be. Now the album is certified platinum around the world, and it's amazing. I'm still on cloud nine when it comes to this record because it's only been out for three weeks, and it's doing so well on the charts.
The album incorporates a lot of different styles. A song like "One Tribe" really stands out.
That's a great song! We had to do the socially conscious songs that we're known for. However, this album is a party record. We didn't want to give you too much of that vibe. We give it on "One Tribe" and "Now Generation." The whole concept of the record is to go out and have a good time, let your hair down and just party all the time!
It's not a simple party record though. You experiment a lot and you took some risks.
Yeah, we took a risk and that's what Black Eyed Peas have always been about. We took a risk by being a hip hop group that was multi-cultural. We're best friends, but the fact that we have a Filipino, a Mexican kid and a black kid in the group was a risk. We took a risk by putting Fergie in the group. We took a risk by doing a song like "Where Is the Love" that talked about the terrorists we have living in the USA like the KKK. That was a big risk. We've always taken risks. It's the same thing with doing a song like "Let's Get Retarded" and turning it into "Let's Get It Started." Now, we're doing "Boom Boom Pow," and there's this whole electro-fusion of house and dance. We're always keeping you guessing about what we're going to do next.
Would you ever want to do a musical?
We haven't really gotten to that point. I couldn't really say a musical. I'm so caught up in the raw essence of how hard the beats are now. Right now, we're in this edgy electro space. We're taking it back to the days of Afrika Bambaataa sampling Kraftwerk to The Jungle Brothers when they did "Girl I'll House You" to Technotronic's "Pump Up the Jam." That's what we're reliving—that late '80s, early '90s hip hop.
Do you have any other movies lined up?
Not yet, we're so caught up with the Peas that everything else is secondary. I have 18 months of touring ahead of me with the Peas, and I'm full steam ahead with the group.
As a fan of the series, did you ever envision yourself in it?
Never! It was such a surreal feeling, and it was nostalgic in the same breath. I was like, "Here I am in such a humongous group, but I'm going into a franchise as amazing as Streetfighter and doing my first action film." It was incredible being embraced by the cast and the crew like someone who's been in the industry for a long time. Sometimes a musician goes into a film, and the sentiment is like, "Ah, he's still the musician" and you never live that down. I did pretty well though. Even though it wasn't a humongous acting job, I did my part. Hopefully, there will be a sequel. To have the experience and catalog it and make relationships like this was great in and of itself. I'm a people person and if I can build relationships and meet people like that, that's great.
Well, this whole business is all about relationships.
Definitely! It's all about the PR, networking and building of these resources and relationships with people.
Photo: Ari Michelson