Before Fergie Joined The BEP, There Was Another Vocalist—“They Got Rid Of The Black Girl, Then They Got The White Girl, And They Blew Up”
The Black Eyed Peas as we all know them, are conformed by Will.I.Am, Taboo, Apl.De.Ap and Fergie. What many people may not know is that Fergie actually replaced the group’s original singer, Kim Hill, in 2002. In a new “op-doc” published by the New York Times, the former vocalist got real about what happened.
Back in 1995, Hill joined Will.i.am, Apl.de.ap, and Taboo when they were forming the Black Eyed Peas.
Hill met Will.I.Amwhen she moved to L.A. to pursue a musical career. He approached her and they began writing music together. The band eventually gained a following and got to open for the likes of OutKast and No Doubt, but the fame wasn’t all positive for Hill.
Right before the group skyrocketed to fame, she felt its fame put pressure on her to be over-sexualized.
“There was new management now, so it’s a whole different set of expectations and pressure. It just started to get clumsy and messy. You want me to grind on Will.i.am in a bathing suit?” Hill says in the video. “That was being asked of me, never by the guys. That was happening from an executive level.”
“The tug of war was about my sexuality and how much of that I was willing to like, literally strip down.”
“I never wanted to be objectified while doing my music. ‘Where’s your voice? Where are you?’” she continues.
At the dawn of the 90s, hip-hop faced something of a crisis.
The success of gangsta rap groups such as Los Angeles natives NWA, whose 1988 debut album, Straight Outta Compton, detailed street violence in an uncompromising and explicit style. Hip-hop’s more aggressive artists were the most popular ones.
When it came to the Black Eyed Peas’ voice and rising fame, Hill and the other members had conflicting opinions on how they should evolve.
She believed it was the group’s “duty to progress [hip-hop],” she says, adding that its uniqueness was being “happy at a time in hip-hop where it really wasn’t okay to just be happy.”
She resented that outside voices wanted her to appear sexualized, objectified.
But at the same time, she understood her bandmates’ didn’t have her privilege to refuse the demands of a burgeoning career. “The pressure started coming to, like, soften it up and make it super-commercial. [I] was like, ‘We’re not really going to do that, are we?’” Hill recalls. “And the guys were like, ‘You don’t have to go back to East L.A. if this doesn’t work out.’”
Not wanting to tear the group apart, Hill left and pursued her solo career.
The Black Eyed Peas eventually brought on Fergie. Soon they were “inescapable”, as Hill says, going on to win six Grammys, sell millions of albums, and release hits like “My Humps” and “I Gotta Feeling.”
Hill has nothing but love for Will.
Kim Hill reached out to Will once The Peas became a worldwide sensation. “Will was so happy, and I called,” she explains. “And I was like…I saw you on TV and you are happy. And I just want you to know, I’m happy for you.” From then on, Hill’s relationship with the band has been amicable.
The former BEP vocalist didn’t throw any shade at the band.
“No one handed them anything,” she says. “They worked their asses off. They deserve it.”
Does she resent Fergie? Not at all, if anything, she think’s they’d bond perfectly.
Hill has never personally met Fergie. “She’s never done anything to me. She didn’t take anything from me,” Hill says. “What I do feel like is if we ever met it would be like an embrace with a hug and a deep breath because I think we just kind of know something about being that female in that construct, and that is — it’s tough.”
“I was there for that part of Hip Hop, that was kind of the last of it.”
There was a seismic shift in hip-hop before the decade was out. A new generation of rap stars who were as comfortable on the red carpet or in the boardroom as they were in the recording studio started to emerge.
Many artists moved on from the overt violence and harnessed radio-friendly productions to cross over into the pop market.
“It’s okay that it’s not wrapped up in a bow, with platinum records and a big house.” says Hill about missing out on the fame and fortune of having been part of The Black Eyed Peas. “I had my happy.” The singer is now divorced and has a son.