ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Mike Short

Black Eyed Peas
"Elephunk"

9th June 2005
Album Cover reviewer: Mike Short
rating: 5 out of 5
published by: Polydor
released: 11th August 2003
  1. Hands Up
  2. Labor Day (It's A Holiday)
  3. Let's Get Retarded
  4. Hey Mama
  5. Shut Up
  6. Smells Like Funk
  7. Latin Girls
  8. Sexy
  9. Fly Away
  10. The Boogie That Be
  11. The APL Song
  12. Anxiety
  13. Where Is The Love?

Many rap groups/artists now operate on a level that some would describe as eclectic. Common, Outkast, The Roots and Mos Def are all champions of this new trend in rap music. But on this, the Black Eyed Peas' third album, they raise the bar to a level which has previously been beyond them, and truly begin to deliver on their promise as a great group, rap or otherwise.

From the off, its clear this isn't a 'rap' album, with the opener ‘Hands Up’ featuring slide guitar and latino style brass sections. The last thing you'll get here is a 50 Cent style brag rap. Second track ‘Labor Day’ throws a different style into the mix, a more conventional, old school hip hop sound, featuring the classic hip hop horn sample. At first listen it may sound conventional, but two or three listens in its clear that this is actually a very modern track despite retro flavourings. This can mainly be attributed to Will.I.Am's slick production skills, that are often highly effective, yet strangely for rap somewhat understated also.

This is without a doubt a feelgood album, that in some cases doesn't take itself too seriously. One thing is for certain though: the Black Eyed Peas know how to start a party. The brilliantly titled ‘Let's Get Retarded’ is a stomper, and is akin to a party version of The Roots' ‘The Seed v2.0’, featuring a similar guitar sound, pacing and drum dynamic. The party element is also present in ‘Fly Away’ (a brilliant effort lead by new, female member Fergie) and the absolutely astounding ‘Boogie That Be’. The latter is about as good as an example of party music that can be found anywhere, it simply comprises of a highly rhythmic synthesized beat and bass and samples like police sirens. Its perhap the most effective song on the album and another prime example of Will.I.Am's perfectly suited production skills.

The great ‘Latin Girls’ is the Black Eyed Peas showing other groups how to do Buena Vista Social Club without floundering. A song dedicated to the love of South American beauties, it is another perfectly judged song, which on paper shouldn't fit into the album with its Flamenco Guitar and shimmering rhythm, yet somehow fits like a glove with the other tracks on show here.

However, despite all the moments of understated greatness, they do occasionally flounder. ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Smells Like Funk’ are both generic and somewhat bland. It almost feels on these two that the eclectic nature of the group is somewhat forced.

These shouldn't be held as a downer over the rest of the album though. They are a rare let-down on the magical journey inside the multicoloured land of the Black Eyed Peas, a group whose only true competitors in the field now, are perhaps Outkast.

Also worthy of a mention are the two collaborations, ‘Anxiety’ (with Papa Roach) and ‘Where Is The Love?’ (featuring Justin Timberlake). The latter you will already be familiar with after its recent domination of the singles charts. The former is a metallic, as one would expect from a collaboration with Papa Roach, up tempo number that is another good showing of the Black Eyed Peas' natural energy, enthusiasm and talent.

They may have only just broken through, but rest assured, they know what they're doing, and they'll be doing good things for a while yet based on this evidence.

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