Born William J. Adams on March 15, 1975 in Los Angeles, he went on to attend the city's Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. His knowledge of fashion gave will.i.am. another creative outlet. He designed his own line "i.am" in 2001 and released a denim collection called "i.am Antik" in 2007. But music always came first for the budding artist. Along with high school friend apl.de.ap and Taboo, will.i.am formed a hip-hop and breakdancing crew called Atban Klann. Founding N.W.A. member and controversial rapper Eazy-E signed them to his own Ruthless Records, even though much of Atban Klann's music was too tame and positive for the label.
After Eazy-E died of AIDS complications in 1995, Atban Klann reformed and changed their names to the Black Eyed Peas. The trio earned recognition in their hometown of Los Angeles for their debut album Behind the Front (1998). Two years later, the group had their first taste of radio success with the Macy Gray-collaborated single, "Request Line" from their second album, Bridging the Gap (2000). Adding a feminine flair to their heavy beats and freestyle rapping was background singer Kim Hill. When Hill left the band that same year, the Peas decided to add a permanent fourth member to their group. They found a powerhouse vocalist named Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson to fill the gap left by Hill, and within a relatively short time, suddenly transformed from a fledgling hip-hop crew to international superstars overnight.
When the Peas' third album Elephunk (2003) was released, the group had truly become a partnership between four artists, with each one bringing his or her own style to the urban sound. They skyrocketed to the top of the charts with the ubiquitous track "Where Is the Love," an anti-war collaboration with pop superstar and former teen idol Justin Timberlake. The Peas scored multiple hits off Elephunk with their ability to harmoniously blend rap, R&B, pop, world music, and electronic sounds. will.i.am was the group's frontman, producer and lead songwriter. Their fourth album, Monkey Business, released in 2005, further cemented the Peas as one of the most successful musical groups of all time. Their work paid off both commercially and critically, with over 18 million albums sold worldwide, 10 Grammy nominations, and three wins - for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group (2007) and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (2005, 2006). According to will.i.am., making music with the Peas came naturally to him, such as the time he spotted a curvaceous woman while sitting at a restaurant, which inspired their hit "My Humps."
Outside of the Peas, will.i.am established himself as one of the most sought-after producers in music. He collaborated with top-selling artists such as Timberlake, John Legend, Mariah Carey, and Carlos Santana. When his bandmate Fergie released her solo album The Dutchess (2006), will.i.am helped produce most of the tracks, including the infectious dance anthems "London Bridge" and "Fergalicious." With Fergie's success as a chart-making pop artist, will.i.am pursued his own solo career. Peas fans wondered if the band had broken up, yet will.i.am and Fergie promised these were personal projects they had always wanted to accomplish. When his album Songs About Girls was released in 2007, will.i.am had an instant hip-hop classic with the track, "I Got it from My Mama."
Music was not will.i.am.'s sole passion. He first dabbled in acting along with the Peas in an online miniseries titled "Instant Def" that advertised Snickers candy bars. In 2008, he provided the voice for the character Moto Moto in the animated hit "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa." His big screen debut was a project of superhero proportions. Cast as Marvel comics character John Wraith, will.i.am acted alongside Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds in the film "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." The rapper was so dedicated to playing the mutant character that he enrolled in boot camp to get in shape. He also had a slight injury on set after accidentally punching and breaking the camera for a fight scene. "Wolverine" was a box office success, kicking off the 2009 summer movie season.
While working on his acting career, will.i.am. also became involved in the political arena. He was a vocal supporter for then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008. He established the website dipdive.com that featured his inspirational tracks "Yes We Can," "We Are The Ones," and "It's A New Day," sending the message to millions of young voters that it was time for a change. Two other tracks - "America's Song" and "Take Our Planet Back" - made their debut on will.i.am.'s site, while the video for "It's A New Day" featured events leading up to the election of the country's first African-American president, as well as appearances by Kanye West, Fergie, and Kevin Bacon. In 2009, the Peas reunited and released their fifth studio album, The E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies), with the lead track "Boom Boom Pow" reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. They also went on a world tour in support of seminal pop rock band U2 that same year.