The Black Eyed Peas is a top-selling music group thanks to hits like “Boom Boom Pow”, “I Gotta Feeling” and “My Humps.” The singer Fergie is known as the lead vocalist of the group and she eventually had a successful solo career of her own. However, she wasn’t the original singer for the rap group. Kim Hill got her start with the group, which unfortunately came to an end in 2002 due to the typical pressures of women in the music industry.
Hill told her story in detail with a new “op-doc” for The New York Times. She first joined the leading men of The Black Eyed Peas — Will.i.am, Apl.de.ap and Taboo — in 1995 and according to her, the group was rawer and more rooted in traditional hip hop when they started — so much that they opened for rap stars like OutKast and Eminem. However, when the group was on the brink of major success, Hill says she started to feel more pressure to be over-sexualized.
“There was new management now, so it’s a whole different set of expectations and pressure,” she explained. “It just started to get clumsy and messy. You want me to grind on Will.i.am in a bathing suit? 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 added.
The other members of the Black Eyed Peas also had differing opinions about how the group should evolve. Hill thought it was the group’s “duty to progress [hip-hop],” adding that their uniqueness was being “happy at a time in hip-hop where it really wasn’t okay to just be happy.”
Despite Hill’s desire to not water down the group with commercial appeal, she understood that the bandmates didn’t have the same privileges as her. “With these three, we’d rock the House of Blues and then they gotta go back to East L.A.,” Hill explained. “The gangs and uncles in jail, and I was in my two bedroom apartment with my corky roommate living in Hollywood.”
Not wanting to break the group up, Hill decided to leave on her own and pursue a solo career. Meanwhile, The Black Eyed Peas considered adding Nicole Scherzinger as a vocalist to the group, but they eventually locked on Fergie. Not too long after, they were an “inescapable” force, as Hill described them, going on to win six Grammys and sell millions of albums.
Reflecting on their journey, Hill has nothing but love for Will.i.am. “No one handed them anything,” she said. “They worked their asses off. They deserve it.”
Hill also says that she never met Fergie, however, if they were to link up, she believes there would be a bond between them as two women who’ve had to navigate the music industry.
“She’s never done anything to me. She didn’t take anything from me,” Hill said. “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.”
You can watch the full mini-doc of Hill’s journey here.