Kim Hill talks quitting the Black Eyed Peas before they blew up, being replaced by Fergie
Hill joined Will.i.am, Apl.de.ap, and Taboo when they were forming the Black Eyed Peas in 1995. They soon gained a following and got to open for the likes of OutKast and Eminem, but the fame wasn’t all positive for Hill.
In a new “op-doc” published by the New York Times this week, the singer speaks about leaving right before the group reached stratospheric heights, as she felt its growing fame put pressure on her to be over-sexualized.
“There was new management now, so it’s a whole different set of expectations and pressure. It just started to get clumsy and messy. You want me to grind on Will.i.am in a bathing suit?” Hill says in the video. “That was being asked of me, never by the guys. That was happening from an executive level.
“The tug of war was about my sexuality and how much of that I was willing to like, literally strip down,” she continues. “I never wanted to be objectified while doing my music. ‘Where’s your voice? Where are you?’”
When it came to the Black Eyed Peas’ voice, Hill and the other members had conflicting opinions on how they should evolve. She believed it was the group’s “duty to progress [hip-hop],” she says, adding that its uniqueness was being “happy at a time in hip-hop where it really wasn’t okay to just be happy.”
She resented that outside voices wanted to stamp out their edginess, but at the same time, she understood her bandmates’ didn’t have her privilege to refuse the demands of a burgeoning career.
“The pressure started coming to, like, soften it up and make it super-commercial. [I] was like, ‘We’re not really going to do that, are we?’” Hill recalls. “And the guys were like, ‘You don’t have to go back to East L.A. if this doesn’t work out.’”
Not wanting to tear the group apart, Hill left and pursued her solo career. The Black Eyed Peas considered adding Nicole Scherzinger as a vocalist, but eventually brought on Fergie. Soon they were an “inescapable” force, as Hill says, going on to win six Grammys, sell millions of albums, and release hits like “My Humps” and “I Gotta Feeling.”
Looking back, Hill has nothing but love for Will.i.am.
“No one handed them anything,” she says. “They worked their asses off. They deserve it.”
And while she has never met Fergie, Hill feels an unspoken bond with the singer, who was active with the Black Eyed Peas until 2016.
“She’s never done anything to me. She didn’t take anything from me,” Hill says. “What I do feel like is if we ever met it would be like an embrace with a hug and a deep breath because I think we just kind of know something about being that female in that construct, and that is — it’s tough.”
Watch Hill’s New York Times op-doc for more.