Phunky bunch goes mainstream

The Black Eyed Peas, often noted as hip-hop visionaries, come across as wannabes more often than not on their latest effort Elephunk. The group’s album doesn’t deliver on the promise of the meaningful hip-hop experience that’s associated with their name, which isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing.

The group’s newest member and resident singer Fergie croons Is that all there is? on the song “Shut Up”. Listeners may ask themselves that same question after sampling the hip-hop group’s third album. Another question listeners may ask themselves quite a bit is “why?”

Vocally, the group’s newest member, Fergie, adds absolutely nothing. She takes the role of an occasional hook singer and background vocalist. The group has not been completely open about the new addition, but Fergie is welcome when she belts out the line Let’s get retarded in here to begin the track by the same title.

For that one moment, she is able to channel enough of Alicia Keys’ vocal talents to justify her presence on the album. It’s not enough to erase the question from fans’ minds, “Why Fergie? Why now?”

With the highly commercialized and prepackaged sound of most of Elephunk’s tracks, it appears that The Black Eyed Peas are on the edge of a mainstream breakthrough. Their Justin Timberlake duet “Where’s The Love” and the contrived “Shut Up” and “Fly Away,” attest to the group’s desire to gain mainstream acceptance.

Elephunk unfortunately brings to mind the question, “Why does this sound so familiar?” The album opener “Hands Up” sounds like a track straight from the lovely town of Nellyville. Meanwhile, on “Latin Girls”, they seem to borrow directly from the highly poetic styling of O-Town when proclaiming, I wish she were more like J.Lo because love don’t cost a thing. However, the most familiar note comes on the album’s second track, “Labor Day (It’s A Holiday)”, in which Fergie clearly sings lines from Madonna’s 1983 classic, “Holiday”.

Luckily for Peas’ fans, they manage to straddle the mainstream line and create promising and truly sincere tracks such as “The Apl Song” and the surprisingly powerful Papa Roach duet “Anxiety”. For a Peas-worthy groove, “The Boogie That Be” is a refreshing trip down booty-shaking lane.

As the album winds down with the hidden track “Third Eye”, Fergie sings, Leave the past behind. Let’s just hope for hip-hop’s sake, the group doesn’t leave too much behind.

Grade: C

Jason E. Hutchins can be reached at