Reppin’ Indian Country worldwide: Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas in Paris, Moscow and more

Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas performs during the "Nice Jazz Festival" at Place Massena in Nice, FRANCE - 7/18/2019 (Sipa via AP Images)

Kazakhstan, Moscow, Saudi Arabia, Paris and New York — just stops along the way in the life of this world-renowned Native American artist

He’s been all over the world singing and performing with the Black Eyed Peas. Taboo, as one of the multi-Grammy winning artists of the world-famous group, proudly wears his large beaded medallion on stage for all the world to see.

After an approximate break of about nine years, the Black Eyed Peas are now out and about all over the world stage bringing their upbeat music, and a multi-diverse talented crew to the world. Taboo, who is Native and Mexican, has been through a lot since 2010 including tackling and beating cancer in 2014.

In an interview with Taboo, the multi-award Grammy winner talks about performing for tens of thousands at a time, what it’s like to be presenting his music all over the world, overcoming struggle and feeling the reaffirmation that “the Creator’s been on my side.”

Vincent Schilling: Indian Country hasn't heard from you in a little bit, so I wanted to touch base. How was the festival in Nice, France? It looked awesome.

Taboo: Well, first of all, being back in the European circuit doing festivals, ranging from 35,000 to 75,000 to 100,000 people a night, it's a blessing man. You know?

Vincent Schilling: You’ve been through a lot the past few years.

Taboo: Coming from the wild whirlwind of 2014, battling cancer and now being able to, five years later being cancer-free, being on that big stage again, it's a reaffirmation that Creator's been on my side. It's a blessing. I'm humbled every moment that I get to be performing with Will.I.Am and Apple. You never know what the future's going to hold, especially when you're dealing with a severe disease like cancer, and the fact that we can, 20 something years later still continue this journey that we started as teenagers, and do it at that level, it's a blessing, man. I see groups like U2 and the Rolling Stones, and these amazing groups that have had success and longevity throughout the years, that's the type of blessing that Black Eyed Peas has had, because of our catalog, we've been able to withhold and go on another run.

Vincent Schilling: Is this tour going to continue?

Taboo: This is like just the beginning of something great. We have more shows lined up for September and November and December. Going into 2020, we're going to be touring, possibly doing our own tour in 2020, so it's been a great journey. As I said, we've been on the road for a month and a half. It's just a blessing, dude. And I'm honored. I'm honored that as a Native kid, I'm able to rock in front of thousands of people and still get that same love that we got when we first put out Where's The Love in 2003.

Vincent Schilling: Let’s put this in perspective as to everything that you've done over the course of your career. Tell us, where have you been, and what are some of the places that you have seen and performed at that stick out?

Taboo: We've done over 100 countries and some of the most obscure countries that stick out of my mind, are amazing places like Kazakhstan, you know, it's close to Russia. I had a great time in Iceland, a great time in Moscow, which was on this run. The Philippines is always amazing, as are Singapore and Japan. I have never done Egypt, though. That's the only one place that we haven't done. 

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British Summer Time festival - London. Black Eyed Peas (l-r Taboo, Apl.de.ap, Will.I.Am) performing during the British Summer Time festival, in Hyde Park, London. Picture date: Sunday July 14, 2019. Photo credit Matt Crossick/PA Wire URN:44125215 (Press Association via AP Images)

We did Saudi Arabia a while back, we've done all the EU, the Emirates, so Dubai, Abu Dabi. And you know, just, it's amazing that we can have the ability to reach so many people through music, through love, through optimism, through positivity. And that's something that we cherish, especially in the diversity, the makeup of our group.

Vincent Schilling: The Black Eyed Peas is certainly a diverse group.

Taboo: Apple's from the Philippines — a third world country — and he had the chance to be able to give his family a better life. Will.i.am is from the projects of East LA. The only African-American family in the projects, it was a predominantly Mexican community. But he was able to take his family out of the ghettos of East LA. Myself, I am a Native and Mexican kid who was able to provide for my family. I had a son at 17, and I was able to give him a better life, you know, and now with my wife and my three new little ones, we're living a blessed life and it's because of music. It's because of the determination and the passion that me, Will, and Apple have had throughout the years. And it all started as teenagers.

Vincent Schilling: One great thing about this tour when I saw the images of you in France, was you, Taboo coming out on stage wearing your awesome large-beaded medallion, bringing Native culture to the forefront. How does it feel to bring that kind of representation of Native culture to the world stage?

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Taboo: I wear my badge of honor with pride. It's beautiful to be able to represent Indian Country. It's amazing that for so many years, we've been able to travel the world, and we're all very proud of our multi-ethnic backgrounds. But most of all, just being able to say to kids on the rez, or kids that are urban natives that anything is possible. Anything is attainable as long as you keep your eye on the prize. You can keep dreaming, my grandmother always said, "Believe you can achieve. Dream big." And that was her Native way. You know, she was a strong Native woman from Jerome, Arizona. And so every time I step on the stage with my beaded medallion, I always think about my grandma and the love and the passion that she gave me.

Vincent Schilling: Even though you've been doing this for so long, do you ever just look out on stage and think, "There are thousands of people out there! Holy cow!"

Taboo: Yeah, that happened to me on my birthday, dude. On July 14th.

Vincent Schilling: Happy belated Birthday.

Taboo: In London, being on the big stage again, in front of you know, almost 75,000 people in London at this place called Hyde Park, it's kind of like their version of Central Park in New York, but it's a little bit bigger. It was amazing to celebrate my birthday back on stage with my crew, although I missed my family, I had my other family there and it was great to be able to perform. It was great to celebrate through music, through the love and appreciation that started, as I keep saying, since we were teenagers.

Vincent Schilling: There is a lot that must be going through your mind. Beating cancer, coming back to tour after almost ten years, you are showing you have this energy still there to give away.

Taboo: And that's the thing that people will witness, although we've been away for nine years as far as touring, it's like we never left every time we step on that stage. We're performing with the same type of energy that we had back in 2003. Because that's just who we are. We've always had our live performance as our secret weapon. That's one of the things that when people come to a Black Eyed Peas show, they get a whole experience, and that's the blessing that we've been able to have throughout the years.

Vincent Schilling: This is great. So you are doing well at 44, going back to tour more and you’ll be continuing to rep Indian Country. Any other words you’d like to share?

Taboo: Yeah, I want to say, congrats to all the folks that have been putting it down in Indian Country, the rezball players, the actors and actresses that have been doing a lot of great work. There have been moments, whether we're talking about the Netflix show Chambers, I know that it was on for a while, and now — we made a dent and had representation on Netflix, I know there's a documentary coming out about rezball. I love that we have more storytelling in pop culture. We will continue to tell our stories, whether it's Jason Momoa, the Pride of Gypsies kid representing his culture or others stepping up at Mauna Kea, you know, it's amazing to see the representation of different Indigenous people out there in pop culture.

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Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling and Instagram - @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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