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The Black Eyed Peas - 'Monkey Business'
(Tuesday June 14, 2005 11:23 AM )

Released on 31/05/05
Label: A&M

Hip hop was born to mix and mutate. If the purists had their way, then Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and The Sugar Hill Gang would still rule and - clearly, no disrespect intended - how dull would that be? Imagine a world with no Run DMC, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan, Mary J Blige, Common, Outkast or any one of the hundreds of other extraordinary talents who've bent hip hop their own, distinctive way, all to phenomenally successful effect. The purist ethos might work well in say, a water bottling plant, but it has no place in hip hop.

To accuse The Black Eyed Peas of messing with the form, then, might seem odd, but the fact is that, despite their market positioning, they're a pop band, (im)pure and simple. The LA quartet use hip hop as their springboard and undoubtedly fancy themselves as mavericks for flirting with everything from 60s surf rock to samba, but since their 2003 cross-over LP, "Elephunk", they've been heading toward hip hop of the most lo-cal kind imaginable. Fourth album "Monkey Business" consequently offers up a steady diet of…nothing.

It's not The Black Eyed Peas' lack of 'authenticity' that's the problem, but rather that their beats are hip hop lite, their melodies so easy on the chart-attuned ear and their expression so MTV-friendly that their claim to make "music for the soul" is now frankly risible. In a bid to offer something for everyone - Justin Timberlake guests on "My Style", James Brown on "They Don't Want Music", Sting on "Union" (which is based around his own "Englishman In New York") and Talib Kweli on "Like That" - they offer very little of themselves and end up with no discernible identity. They've variously incorporated elements of crunk, funk, reggae, rai and calypso, but the result is plain confused and even an attempt to hijack The Jackson Five's mojo (for "Don't Lie") sees it channelled via Menudo.

"Monkey Business" is hip hop after the snip, so safe and sanitised it makes The Fugees sound like NWA. Really, how low can The Black Eyed Peas go?

    by Sharon O'Connell

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