Marysabel E. Huston-Crespo
(CNN Spanish) – The Black Eyed Peas celebrate 25 years of career and eight nominations for the Latin Billboard Awards. They arrive at the ceremony thanks to “Translation”, a collaborative album with eight Hispanic singers. From that production, hits such as “Girl Like Me” with Shakira, “Mamacita” with Ozuna and J. Rey Soul or “Ritmo (Bad Boys for Life)” with J Balvin are released.
Those songs in Spanglish, led the Los Angeles group to have eight mentions in categories such as “crossover artist of the year”, “hot Latin song, song of the year” or “top Latin albums, artist of the year duo or group”. something that for Taboo, whose first name is Jaime Luis Gómez, is a dream come true.
“It’s like a dream [hecho realidad] for us. Being a group since 1995 and being active in 2021, with all the music we are releasing … since 2019 with Ritmo with J Balvin, in 2020 we launched our album Translation with Piso 21, with Maluma, with Ozuna, Becky G and the great, iconic Shakira, ”Taboo told Zona Pop CNN.
“It is a dream for us and we appreciate that Billboard pays tribute to us and gives us this platform, even at this point in our careers. It is a great pride ”, added the singer.
Black Eyed Peas and their Latino DNA
Although Taboo is the only member who has Latino blood, specifically Mexican from Sonora, the group has always had Hispanic culture in its roots. Will.i.am grew up surrounded by Mexicans in the government-subsidized apartments in Los Angeles, known as “the projects,” and Apl.de.ap, although he is Filipino, on that island the influence of Spain is still present.
This cultural exchange, which has been seen in the group’s career since its inception, was important for this production and even more so, preserving the lyrics in Spanish by Latin artists.
“Thank God that the artists we work with did their part in Spanish, we didn’t want to change anything, we didn’t want to change the language. We wanted the energy to be the same, ”Taboo told Zona Pop CNN.
The singer confessed to CNN en Español that composing in this language was a challenge, one that he says he practices daily.
“Will.i.am and I said: ‘we can’t say that because he’s Spanish but Mexican-American’, we have to make it global. [Translation] it improved us as songwriters, because on albums like Elephunk we did songs like Latin Girls, we had rhymes in Spanish but it wasn’t as focused as we did in Translation with the lyrics in Spanish or Spanglish ”, he added.
“Also having an open mind to have incredible artists like Shakira helping us with the lyrics. She helped Will.i.am with the songwriting, making sure the words he used made sense and were words that we could use in 2020, ”Taboo told Zona Pop CNN.
Defending the Latino Community
For Taboo and the group, the defense of the Latino community is important. For the singer even more, being half Native American and half Mexican, he feels a very personal responsibility to represent both indigenous and Latino communities at the global level.
“I focused on offering my voice to build bridges between pop culture and the indigenous community. That is something very important to me, especially to learn more about my roots in Mexico. My grandfather was from Sonora, I don’t really know which of the tribes were in Sonora, but my grandmother was a Native American from Jerome, Arizona, ”he says.
“I focused on appreciating and learning more about the indigenous culture. How beautiful, how special it is to have that historical past and give it a modern touch. Many times we forget our history, we are so focused on a modern life that we forget our origins. For me it is something very important never to forget where we come from to know where we are going, ”the singer told Zona Pop CNN.
Building bridges with music
And those bridges continue to be raised to bring Dominican artists like El Alfa to a global platform.
“It is something special, to honor and defend the Latino community, for me, as a Native American and Mexican it is a great pride to represent my people, especially with an album that is focused on giving to Latino artists. El Alfa, which is amazing in the Latino community, taking him into the Black Eyed Peas universe, it was like a cultural exchange. Piso 21, from Colombia, we take him to the world of the Black Eyed Peas ”, adds Taboo.
“It was a mixture of energy, friendship and the celebration of the union of these musical genres. It was a natural and organic feeling because we worked with artists like Juanes in 2004 or 2005, we did La Paga. Will.i.am did something with Joan Sebastian, I did something with Paulina Rubio. We also work with Juan Luis Guerra, we always had a connection with Latin artists. So it’s a natural theme for us to focus on giving a platform to these incredible artists who inspire us, ”he said.
“J Balvin and Maluma inspire us, Ozuna inspires us… It’s an incredible moment for us and it continues, we just released a new single with Saweetie and Lele (Pons)… Lele is incredible, what she does on TikTok, she has great energy, she is a beautiful being, so the music continues in 2021, ”according to Taboo.
“Translation”, an album that feels like a ‘playlist’
“Translation”, the eighth studio album by the US group, was released in June 2020, at one of the critical points of the coronavirus pandemic.
The production has 15 songs, including “Girl Like Me”, a hit on networks and streaming platforms, which came to lead the Billboard Latin Airplay chart.
In previous interviews, the band members said that when it came to putting together the song list, their intention was to create an album that felt like a playlist. Each song with its own energy that invited to dance and enjoy, something that according to Taboo, was one of the reasons why they launched the production during the pandemic.
“We released the album during the pandemic. It was a strange experience to be locked in quarantine. Thank God we were able to make a record, an album that represented joy, happiness, “Taboo told Zona Pop CNN.
“For us it was a way of expressing ourselves, with very positive vibes, with a lot of optimism, celebrating what could happen tomorrow. We were going through difficult situations at that time and we had to focus on music that made us feel good. Producing this album was a direct reflection of what was to come in terms of celebrating music, enjoyment, happiness, “he said.
“We could have made a horror album, sadness, but we wanted to do something that represented our hope and optimism, that’s why the album was so happy, uptempo … it’s a classic Black Eyed Peas, it’s like I Gotta Feeling or Boom Boom Pow It was like Latino, electric, urban, pop, afro beat. Those celebratory themes were very important to the Black Eyed Peas, ”added Taboo.
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