No, not a "hip hop scientist" who makes beats in the "lab." And, technically, not the real kind of scientist either. But, he thinks science is very important, which is the basis of a television program he put together called i.am.FIRST: Science is Rock & Roll. This program, for which we hope scientists come up with a better name, is like "a science fair and rock concert all mashed up together," in will's words. It airs this Sunday on ABC at 7 pm, and we spoke with him yesterday, also probing him about other subjects. He tends to make a lot of weird noises with his mouth and adopt funny voices.
How did you come up with the idea for this show?
I met [inventor] Dean Kamen and was inspired by all the things he invented, so I made it a point to reach out to him. I met him, and he invited me over to his lab in New Hampshire. I went to his [in "white person" voice] "laboratory," and he showed me some of his inventions. He told me about his FIRST program, which teaches kids science, technology, engineering and math at schools across the country. They build robots.
I was inspired, I saw 13-year-old kids building robots, writing code. [Imitating little girl's voice] "My robot's glitching!" They inspired me to make a TV show out of it. Dean Kamen didn't think I'd be able to do it. So here comes little old me, I called ABC, bought the time, produced the whole show.
How would you describe the show itself?
It's like a science fair and rock concert all mashed up together. We're performing, Willow Smith is performing, there's kids building robots. Justin Bieber, Bono, Jack Black and Justin Timberlake give their testimonials on what science means to them. Oh, and Snoop Dogg.
So does that mean you've forgiven Snoop for his line on "Kush" when he says, "Still I am/Tighter than the pants on will.i.am."
[Grows animated.] When Snoop said "Tighter than the pants on will.i.am," he was talking about how my flow is tight, how my style's tight. My budget's not tight, though; everything's tight but the budget. [Laughs.] I looked at it as 'That's dope.'
You're taking a year off from Black Eyed Peas, right?
Yeah, to work with Justin Bieber, with Usher, to work on programs like this, to work on my solo projects, and movies. I'm going, I ain't stopping. They just turned on a fire hose. All my water used to go into Black Eyed Peas cups, but now that's water's going everywhere.
You're featured in the new Electric Daisy Carnival movie. Do you feel like electronic music is more your thing in recent years than hip hop?
I like it all. I like yesterday hip hop. Today shit is cool, but yesterday's...
Are you going to make electronic music in your year off?
Actually, I'm doing two records at once...Oops! I'm not supposed to say that.
Have you seen the Saturday Night Live sketch where apl.de.ap and Taboo have their own show, and Fergie keeps coming in and interrupting it?
Do you think it's funny?
Is that a serious question? Yeah, that shit was funny! What am I supposed to say, that they got my hair wrong? Even the group thought it was funny. We play that shit on replay.