More than just some clever catchphrase, the title of Black Eyed Peas’ sophomore LP reflects their self-proclaimed mission to transcend rap and bring together musical styles as diverse as the trio’s ethnic backgrounds, as well as attracting fans outside traditional hip-hop circles. Judging by their summer spent opening for No Doubt and the lily-white crowd that greeted their most recent appearance at St. Andrew’s, the Peas have accomplished the latter goal. Like labelmates and fellow LA residents Jurassic 5, however, they occupy a curious position: a bit too polished and video-friendly to be street heroes, but too weird for urban radio. Their down-to-earth vibe and intense live performances prove they’re clearly not a flimsy pop creation. Bridging the Gap
, then, also refers to the group’s straddling of the underground, mainstream and everything in between. Although it seems something has to give, the Peas have managed to move in both directions. Underground heads and mix-show DJs will be pleased with the Premier-produced “BEP Empire” and the trio’s lyrical criticisms of materialistic, hollow rappers on “Bringing It Back.” Yet this album is even more accessible than their first, with a danceable, fun feeling and catchy melodies permeating most songs. Although they don’t always follow their own advice to “Get Original,” jacking overdone samples from Sly Stone, Afrika Bambaataa and Bill Withers, the music for the most part is impressive. Live instrumentation brings a dense organic feel, with breaks and tempo changes.
Will.i.am predictably handles most of the production duties, but cohort Apl.de.ap pleasantly surprises, bringing a more head-nodding thump with his two creations, “Hot” and “Release.” While it’s not enough to totally compensate for their shortcomings as MCs (like their friend Wyclef, they do just enough to fill the space between choruses), the Peas’ musical excellence makes for an enjoyable listening experience. Bridging the Gap is a solid, unspectacular effort, which will appeal to fans of both Dilated Peoples and Macy Gray.
Luke Forrest writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].