Feature

How Will.i.am escaped

The Black Eyed Peas frontman was raised by his mother in a brutally poor Los Angeles neighborhood.

Will.i.am is a refugee from East L.A., said Matthew Garrahan in the Financial Times. Born William Adams Jr., the Black Eyed Peas frontman was raised by his mother in a brutally poor Los Angeles neighborhood rife with crime and drugs. “She knew she had to send me to a better school,” he says. His mom enrolled him in a school that was a 90-minute bus ride away, which meant Will.i.am had to wake at 5 a.m. every day. “Sometimes I would miss breakfast, and when you’re on food stamps and lunch tickets, missing breakfast is not good.” But he gives his mom full credit for keeping him from the temptations that swallowed his friends. “In the ghetto there’s a liquor store, a check-cashing place, and a motel. What that tells you psychologically is: Get a check, cash it. Take a couple of steps. Buy some liquor and get drunk, go home and get kicked out of your house. And here’s a place to sleep along the way.” As soon as his music career took off, he moved his family to a middle-class Jewish neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. “It was either drive-bys or rabbis. I picked the rabbis.”

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