Will.i.am's ability to foresee trends beyond the music industry has placed him in conversations with President Obama over the years. Not to mention the Black Eyed Peas frontman's innovative knack of using technology to record chart-topping hits.
In HuffPost Black Voices latest episode of "The Tanning Effect," the Grammy Award-winner revealed how in the eighth grade he leveraged plush '80s toy Teddy Ruxpin and his childhood friendship with Berry Gordy's son (and LMFAO member) Stefan Gordy into his first recording contract.
"I used to record on my little sister's Teddy Ruxpin tapes to make Teddy Ruxpin rap. So I used to put my little demo inside his belly and press play and he used to kick my lyrics in homeroom show-and-tell," he recalled (see video 2, 0:56).
"So after homeroom show-and-tell, I gave the tape to Stefan: 'Give this to your pops.' And he didn't give it to his dad, so he gave it to his brother, Kerry, and then Kerry [Gordy] says, 'You're really talented, this is cool.' To make a long story short, in the 10th grade I tell Stefan, 'Tell your daddy to get you some music equipment so we can record after school.'"
After the teens' exchange about approaching the iconic Motown founder to help further their musical aspirations, the future pop star added that Gordy complied and brought his son an Ensoniq professional keyboard. As a result, Will.i.am spent countless hours after school with Stefan crafting his demo tape, which in turn landed him a recording deal on Eazy-E's label, Ruthless Records, at the tender age of 17.
"I come to school with a record deal, like 'Yo, I got a record deal, 10 G's,'" he added. "To a 17-year-old, ten thousand dollars -- granted, it was, like, for life, Eazy-E had me signed like forever." During his stint on the former NWA member's label, Will spent a lot of his time ghost-writing for the late MC and made his debut alongside the rapper on the 1992 EP "5150: Home 4 tha Sick" track "Merry Muthaf%&*in' Xmas"
Will.i.am also opened up about the role he played in helping President Obama's 2008 election campaign, discovering popular dance group LMFAO, and the effect that technology has had on the music industry.
Watch parts one, two, and three of the interview above.
Also, check out an excerpt from Stoute's book below.
Excerpt from Chapter 10 "Tan Is The New Cool"
At one point, not long after Jimmy Iovine had to make the argument to iTunes that most kids didn't even know to associate guitars with music, I heard that the international chain Guitar Center was actually selling more electronic turntables than guitars. DJs have all kinds of new tools and technology for mixing--including a very cool HP console that Translation helped develop and market in its early stages. There are also programs like Serato that will let anyone with a turntable that hooks up to their computer mix any song on their hard drive as if it was literally on vinyl--basically allowing you to scratch a computerized "blank" of the record and mix it for repeated usages.
Fab Five Freddy went so far as to say, "There's no excuse not to be creative with the resources available." The climate now, he feels, has close parallels to the early days when the scene and the music achieved liftoff on extremely limited resources. With all this resilience and resourcefulness in the music scene today there is one dramatic difference that had bothered Jimmy Iovine for years. Whenever he and I used to talk--catching up on this and that, as well as projects we had in the works together--he would happen to mention how frustrated he was becoming with the dismal quality of the sound that kids today were getting from listening to music on their laptops and with cheap earbuds. Remember those beloved speakers of his that he always used to discern whether a record had transformative powers? After all these years, the importance of the sound experience was still an obsession.
Reprinted from "The Tanning of America" by Steve Stoute by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright 2011 by Steve Stoute.
For more information on Steve Stoute's "The Tanning Of America" click here.