If Outkast hadn’t come along and blown up the entire landscape with Speakerboxx/The Love Below – the pieces from which are yet to land, by the way – then the funkalicious potpourri of positivity that is the Black Eyed Peas’ Elephunk would have easily been the hip hop-oriented album of 2003. I say “hip hop-oriented” because the Peas’ disc bounces ebulliently across almost as wide a musical terrain as does Outkast’s.
The multiracial Peas – will.i.am, apl.de.ap, Taboo, and new singer Fergie – began as a breakdancing troupe in L.A. in the early-’90s, evolving into a hip hop act, and now they are booty-slapping full-on live band/hip hop unit as evidenced by their extravaganza performance at the Grammys, complete with Justin Timberlake contributing his voice to Fergie’s on the choruses of breakthrough hit “Where Is the Love.”
Produced superbly by will.i.am and apl, mixing live instruments with samples, beats, and wicky-wickies, the Peas rock bottom-heavy, jazzy hip hop on “Hands Up” and “Labor Day,” jammin’ old school funk on “Let’s Get Retarded” and “The Boogie That Be,” irresistible Sean Paul-stylie dancehall (with guest Tippa Irie) on “Hey Mama.”
“Shut Up” is equally funny and touching relationship-jousting R&B (complete with surf guitar!) with Fergie wailing, “Latin Girls” celebrates just that, “Sexy” waxes libidinous over a bossa nova beat, and “Anxiety” is cruching rap-rock with guests Papa Roach.
Highly musical, infectious, thumping – Elephunk is freaky great stuff.