Will.i.am is so much more than just a recording artist. He is a brand and a maker of brands.
Born William Adams, the multi-faceted entertainer and innovator is a founding shareholder of Beats (progenitor of the Beats by Dre headphones.) In partnership with Coca-Cola, he’s got a clothing line called Ekocycle that features apparel made with recycled plastic bottles. Will.i.am has also launched an iPhone camera accessory, a smartwatch, a pretty damn cool eyewear collection, a special SUV for Lexus and last year a smart home operating system to rival Alexis.
He operates under the parent company I.am. Will.i.am is one clever, forward thinking, money making machine – even though his spelling and overuse of full stops still baffles older generations.
RAGS TO RICHES
The seven-time Grammy Award winner is best known for his work with The Black Eyed Peas, who have sold a staggering 33 million albums and 58 million singles worldwide. Will.i.am was born in Los Angeles in 1975 and raised in a largely Hispanic neighbourhood on the east side of the city. His mother encouraged his musical career and sent him to a privileged public school in the more affluent area of West Los Angeles. While attending John Marshall High School he became friends with Allan Pineda (his future Black Eyed Peas bandmate apl.de.ap) he performed in LA clubs till he was spotted by Compton rapper Eazy-E and signed to his Ruthless Records in 1992. Unfortunately due to the rappers untimely death in 1995 the album he had been working on was never released. Luckily he got to meet his third bandmate Taboo and renamed the band Black Eyed Peas in 1997. The band had relative success with 2 albums ‘Behind the Front’ and ‘Bridging the Gap’ in 1998 and 2000 respectively.
While working on their third album they realised a female vocal would work well with their hit ‘Shut Up’ and enlisted Fergie (although Nicole Scherzinger from The Pussycat Dolls was originally approached – she declined). Fergie formed such a close bond with the band she stayed and was a permanent fixture in the Black Eyed Peas for all their major number one hits including ‘Hey Mama’, ‘Where is the Love?’ and ‘Let’s Get it Started.’
The band never officially split up though and continued to produce albums together up until 2007. They ended up taking a break when bandmate Taboo was ill. Since then they have always insisted they will reform for a reunion tour. We are waiting with baited breath, of course.
Since the group fractioned, Will.i.am has embarked on a hugely successful solo career of his own and has worked with some of the industry’s biggest names including Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, David Guetta and film composer Hans Zimmer. He also manages Brit singer and close gal pal Cheryl Cole’s career.
According to Forbes, Will.i.am is now one of the richest singers in the US with an amassed fortune of over $75 million.
As frontman and founder of The Black Eyed Peas Will.i.am’s songs and imagery have entertained and inspired millions, and the power of his words resonated deeply in his song “Yes We Can” that mobilised an entire generation to action during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Demonstrating that music, brands and causes can be intertwined to entertain and inform, “Yes We Can” garnered an Emmy Award for “Best New Approaches in Daytime Entertainment” as well as a CLIO award in the Interactive category. Plus it did make going out and voting a cool thing to do in an era when many of the youth of America were disillusioned with the government and politics.
For Will.i.am, philanthropy is a top priority in everything that he does. His i.am.angel foundation has partnered with both the California Endowment and College Track to help TRANS4M the youth community Boyle Heights, the neighbourhood where Will.i.am grew up. The foundation also selects recipients for the i.am scholarship, a program which has given over $500,000 in financial aid to college students.
Additionally, in response to the foreclosure crisis, the foundation has launched the i.am home program which works to improve financial literacy and provides grants to help qualifying struggling families. The program has provided over $400,000 to date in home owner assistance grants.
In addition to his music career, Will.i.am is very active in front of and behind the camera. His educational TV special ‘i.am.mars: Reach For The Stars’, a behind-the-scenes look at the artistic and scientific elements involved in sending a song to Mars aired on Discovery’s Science Channel in 2012. Will.i.am was indeed the first ever recording artist to send a song to Mars in conjunction with NASA’s Curiosity Mars Space Lab.
Will.i.am also executive produced and starred in his first prime time TV special ‘i.am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll’ to get young people excited about math and science education, as well as technology and science-related careers.
In front of the camera, Will.i.am has appeared as a Coach on reality TV hit show ‘The Voice’ UK on the BBC and now ITV for six years in a row. Despite music legend Tom Jones appearing alongside him on the red swivel chairs, Will.i.am definitely has more credibility among the young hopefuls and 95% of the time – if he turns he gets the vote. To date he has only won the show once with Jermaine Jackman who won the 2014 edition. However with the show currently entering the exciting Battle stages Will.i.am has some major talent on his team and is hoping to pip the other Coaches – Tom Jones, Jennifer Hudson and newbie Olly Murs. Tune into ITV at 8pm on Saturday nights throughout March to find out if he wins the series again this year.
(3 Facts about Will.i.am)
HE HEARS CONSTANT RINGING IN HIS EAR
Will.i.am suffers with tinnitus as a result of years of exposure to loud noises. He is often left hearing sounds and high-pitched noises that aren’t actually there. “I don’t know what silence sounds like any more,” he said in a recent interview. “Music is the only thing which eases my pain.”
HE WANTED TO BE A FASHION DESIGNER
Ahead of finding fame as a musician with the Black Eyed Peas, Willi.am attended the Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. He created his own clothing line named i.am in the process but later drifted away from fashion to pursue music.
HE SUFFERS FROM ADHD
It recently emerged that Will.i.am’s need to focus on so many things at one time comes from his Attention Deficit Disorder. ADHD is a behavioural disorder that affects people’s attention spans, impulsiveness and causes them to be hyperactive. It is often diagnosed in children – although Will only announced his diagnosis 2013.