He’s most popular for being one-fourth of the eclectic super-group, Black Eyed Peas, but Taboo, the energetic dancer brings a different element to the group’s stage show with his moves, his outfits and of course his culture, which have brought him the love, respect and appreciation of the fans. A couple weeks ago he stood alongside the rest of his group members for the performance of a lifetime during the Super Bowl Halftime show, a moment he says is the height of his career.
Moments like that mean much more to Taboo than we can see from our television screens or even live in Dallas because its moments like those he could’ve missed out on entirely when just four years ago he let a drug habit land him in jail—total rock bottom. But Taboo is in a position to take in these joyous moments thanks to the help of his group members who stood by his side on that Halftime show stage as well as his wife and two sons who came along on the trip to Dallas to share the moment with him, and his guardian angel who follows him everywhere—his grandmother who believed in him the most but passed away just a year into the group’s early success.
Right off the adrenaline rush that was the Super Bowl, Taboo released his memoir, Fallin’ Up, which details his rise from out of rock bottom and highlights the life of one of the founding members of the six-time Grammy winning Black Eyed Peas. We got a chance to talk to Taboo while he was in New York to discuss it all, from The Beginning to The E.N.D., up until the Halftime performance to the release of the book. The insightful interview is begins now…
Parlé Magazine: Hey. How’s New York been treating you?
Taboo: It’s been cool, been out here doing a few signings and a lot of television stuff to promote this book. It’s been real good so far.
Parlé: That’s great, definitely try to enjoy the city while you’re out here. You have this new book out, Fallin’ Up, talk to me about the title, how did that come about?
Taboo: Well there’s two reasons for it, the book is really for all the Black Eyed Peas fans, anyone who’s been with us from the beginning. On the first album, Behind The Front we put out back in 1998, the first track on the album was called “Fallin’ Up”. So I decided to call the book that to show them that I appreciate them from being there through all of this. The other reason is because I discuss in the book, when things were bad, when I was sitting in that prison, I had hit rock bottom. There was really no where to go but up, so instead of falling down and giving up, I decided that I would turn thing around and that was ‘Fallin’ Up’.
Parlé: Okay, I see it was very well thought out. As far as your stage name, was that well thought out as well or was it just something that kind’ve stuck?
Taboo: Well being the kind of person that I am, a lot of times growing up I was living the taboo lifestyle. My son, Josh’s mom is Black, and where I grew up it was frowned upon to date outside your race so it was kind’ve a taboo for a Mexican to be dealing with an African-American woman. Or the style of music that I always listened to was Hip-Hop, I loved De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Big Daddy Kane, Special Ed and that wasn’t really popping off where I was from, it was about Techno and House and that was a taboo so it just kind of goes along with my personality and who I am.
Parlé: You start the book talking about your grandmother, talk to me real quick about the impact she had on you and even on your decisions to become an entertainer.
Taboo: Well my grandmother, she was always very supportive of me creatively and on stage. She was kind’ve the one that told me to dream big.
Parlé: Okay, so you eventually meet Will and apl.de.ap and together you start the Black Eyed Peas. Describe that early grind for me, what was it like early on for you guys.
Taboo: Well we meet in 1993 at a club called Ballistics when we were teenagers. I was from a crew called Tribal Brothers, Will was from a crew called Tribal Nation, and we’re battling crews. Will.I.Am was Will 1X back then and he was rapping. I had never seen him but he was definitely special. I remember seeing Apl in another circle battling other crews and I remember thing, ‘wow, these guys are fresh’. We kind’ve had similar styles, similar tastes in dress and music so we became friends and we started this thing called Grass Roots. I was in a group called Pablo after Tribal Brothers, Tribal Nation became Atban Klann and they signed to Ruthless Records with Easy E. Easy E passed away in 1995 so they changed their name and that’s when Will asked me to be part of the group and that’s when Black Eyed Peas was born.
Parlé: And what was that like? I’ve done some research as the Peas and that’s just as a fan and I know it took a while to get that recognition. And for a lot of people they didn’t become familiar with Black Eyed Peas until the early 2000s. What was it like living as a struggling artist at that point?
Taboo: Well it was kind’ve living day to day, hoping to make it. Living that struggling artist lifestyle. I remember feeling like the only people I could turn to was Will and Apl because the support–“Moms keep saying, ‘Boy get a job'”, that old Q-Tip line is perfect because my mom was always saying, “you need to get a job,” “you need to go to school”. Without the support of Apl and Will I don’t know where I would be. There was a lot of trials and tribulations but we managed to stay tight knit as brothers and as friends.
Parlé: Just to piggy back on that real quick, looking at the images in the book, you seem to have a very tight knit circle that has been around since day one. Talk to me about the type of relationship the Peas have and how you continue to make it work.
Taboo: Its a friendship that has been able to stand the test of time as far as all the accomplishments, all the fans, no ego or label, no brand or individual super stardom will ever tear our relationship apart because we’re very real with each other and we’re not afraid to tell each other when somebody is messing up. Everyone would be like ‘Yo Tab, what’s going on, what’s up?’ When I was going through my dark time. I always turn to my friends for that support and vice versa, we’re very supportive. The friendship is what people see on stage. Its what helps us stand the test of time. The Super Bowl was our biggest day but we have many more days to go and we’re going to keep on trucking.
Parlé: Being up on stage rocking out for hundreds of thousands of screaming fans, and on tour shows when you’re up on that motorcycle high as hell, what’s that feeling like? What emotions are running through you at those points?
Taboo: I feel like a ringmaster. You know how a ringmaster controls his circus, I feel like I’m in control of our circus, whatever our setting is. If we’re in a quiet setting I like to bring the party up, if we’re in a wild setting, I like to turn it up a notch. It all depends on what the setting is. If we’re in a Rock ‘N Roll setting we like to bring the energy up, that’s why I feel like a ringmaster. I feel like I’m controlling the crowd. I also like to think of myself as a drill sergant, “Yo, everybody put your hands up, put your hands up.” I try to keep the crowd involved, keep people really riled up to have a good time.
Parlé: There are 4 members of the Peas, but what do you say is Taboo’s role?
Taboo: A performer. And the crowd motivator. That’s my role. We all have our certain things, we all have our niche and I’ve always been a performer since I was young and that goes along with the book. My grandmother inspired me and made me become this performer and make me always bring my best to the table.
Parlé: With all the success your team has found, the Grammys, The Super Bowl, now your book, do you feel like you’ve accomplished most if not all of what you set out to accomplish?
Taboo: Um, yeah man. We’ve gone far beyond what we’ve ever expected. We’ve been blessed. I don’t know where else we can go from here as far as achievements and accolades and stuff that people always talk about. But now its kind’ve like, ‘okay we’ve done that, but how do we give back?’ I feel like this book represents that. If a person picks up my book and says, ‘you know what I’m inspired by that,’ or say ‘this book gave me hope,’ then I’m doing my job. Its more than a story on my life, its also trying to inspire and give people a sense of hope.
Parlé: The book is really one of your biggest solo endeavors, but do you forsee a solo Taboo album?
Taboo: That’s in the works now. I’m so caught up in Black Eyed Peas world now with the new album, The Beginning and the new single coming out, “Just Can’t Get Enough.” So my bread and butter right now is the Black Eyed Peas, you know that’s the mothership that will produce the solo side projects. I got the shoe line, Taboo Delta shoe line, the book. All the stuff I do as an individual, I owe it all to the mothership.
Parlé: How’d the name Black Eyed Peas come about?
Taboo: Will.I.Am was just throwing names around like, ‘what about Blue Unit,’ naw that’s wack. ‘What about Hip-Hop nation?’ That’s even more wack. ‘How about Black Eyed Peas. ‘Oh that’s fresh. We also look at it like Black Eyed Peas is soulfood and we feed your soul.
Parlé: Okay, let’s talk about what’s next for Taboo. I know you got the new Black Eyed Peas album, and you said you’re working on your project but what’s next for you?
Taboo: Working on the solo project, you know I have to give back to my spanish community so I have some spanish joints, trying to brand myself as an individual we have the book popping off, the shoe line, I’m trying to do more acting. For more information people can follow me on my twitter @TabBEP, I always try to keep people posted on what I’m doing. Sky’s the limit from here. Now that I’m venturing off and doing more thing people are going to start hitting me up and giving me more opportunities. I’m open right now.
Parlé: I know family is a big thing for you and a reoccuring topic of the book. Does your family, or having to be away from your family so much ever make you reconsider?
Taboo: I’ve been blessed with a great partner who through time has really understood our mission and what my mission is as her husband. She’s very supportive of my career and she knows that I’m doing big things for our family. Without that support, that trust and the confidence she has in me to do what I gotta do, I’d probably be divorced by now. And I have a strong team and my kids understand. I try to balance it out by bringing my wife and kids on tour with me, actually they were with me at the Super Bowl which was one of the greatest rewards that night.
Parlé: Looking back at it all, I know its probably a lot easier to make the decision now, but would you change anything?
Taboo: Um, you know what, Would I, could I, should I? I’ll just say, I like where I’m at right. I like the person I’ve become. I’m glad I went through those hardships and those hard knocks along the road so that I could get to be the person that I am.
Parlé: Last question, if someone sees the book in stores and they’re not sure if they should get it, what would you tell them to get them to pick it up?
Taboo: They should pick up the book because if they’re not inspired by it, or if it doesn’t give them a sense of hope then maybe they’ll say to themselves ‘I don’t want to be that guy.’ I don’t want to go down that same path, and maybe I scare you and show you that the dark tunnel I went down is not for you. If you’re a single parent at a young age you can say, ‘ here’s a guy who went through the same thing I’m going through and he over came that, he overcame drugs, he overcame alcohol.’ And plus, its an honest story of a horrible side of a human being. The only thing I can say is pick it up
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