Twelve years ago, it was Will.i.am’s star-studded spoken word video “Yes We Can” that provided the soundtrack to Barack Obama’s historic run for the presidency.
Now, with less than a week to go until this year’s election, the six-time Grammy award-winning artist is once again using his talents to support the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.
Will.i.am’s group Black Eyed Peas have teamed up with Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson to release “The LOVE,” an adaption of the band’s 2003 global smash hit, “Where is the Love.”
“The LOVE” carries familiar stylistic echoes of the 2008 “Yes We Can Video,” and uses portions of Joe Biden’s Democratic National Convention speech in the opening and closing verses.
The project features an array of activists, including the surviving family members of George Floyd and Jacob Blake. The video opens with Biden himself citing the words of civil rights icon Ella Baker, “Give light, and people will find the way.”
In a year of racial reckoning for the United States, the video has already recorded nearly 30 million views since it was released last week. Both Vice President Biden and Michelle Obama have shared it with their followers on Twitter in an effort to mobilize voters.
In an email correspondence, CNN asked Will.i.am about his message to voters, how the collaboration with Hudson came together, and what he hopes to see for America in 2021. The exchange, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows below.
What drove you to make the video?
America is seriously divided and in crisis due to mismanagement, or I should say non-management of the Covid pandemic. For a nation that has the best healthcare in the world, we are the worst performing in terms of case counts and deaths. The economic and family hardships are also enormous. It will take years to claw back from this mess.
Was this video made for, or by the Biden / Harris campaign?
No. This is an independent artistic project of Black Eyed Peas and Jennifer Hudson. No input or funds came from the campaign.
How did Jennifer Hudson get involved?
Jennifer is a good friend and collaborator. We were Coaches on “The Voice UK” together and also pulled together “#Sing4Life” with Bono and Yoshiki when the pandemic isolation first started. Jennifer is from Chicago, a city hard-hit by gun violence, systemic racism and poverty. We both feel it is our duty — we are compelled to remind America about the harsh realities we all face.
You have included many important family survivors and activists. How did they come to the project, and agree to participate?
Black Eyed Peas have stood and marched alongside victims of violence, police brutality, economic injustice, and immigration policies that don’t work. We called the families of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Alvin Cole and Breanna Taylor to ask for their support and they were all in.
Why was it important to include these families and crusaders in the video?
When a crisis situation arises, it’s often individual citizens and local community activists who lead the charge to turn around a bad situation. In the situations shown in “The LOVE” the government is not, or has not come to help us — we must help ourselves.
Famously, you made the “Yes We Can” video for Barack Obama in 2008. In a world where the digital landscape is far more fragmented and polarized, do you think you can have the same impact with this?
The goal of “The LOVE” is to show people, and remind them what has happened to America. We are no longer a beacon of hope, a leader that everyone in the world looks to. The tension, the divide, the public hatred — these are all conditions made worse by the current administration. We hope that “The LOVE” also moves people like “Yes We Can” did — to get them out to the polls to vote.
What was it about Biden’s DNC speech in particular that made you want to include it in the song?
Biden’s speech connected with us — his calming influence, and the call to get America back on track and to unite us is vital. With a sense of shared purpose and unity, we can begin to turn things around, to make things better for everyone, regardless of party, race, religion, or economic situation.
Why is it so important for the youth, especially in minority communities, to vote in this election?
Young voters in the US like to get involved in rallies and social media but they don’t always show up to vote. As the largest group of voters, these first-time young voters truly have the change to drive the outcome of this election. Black Americans fought and died to earn the right to vote, yet some don’t show up to vote. Voters of color have been targeted with misinformation, that their votes don’t matter. Not true! If you believe this, they have won. Don’t let anyone intimidate you — get out there and vote.
What do you hope to see in 2021?
The top issues that Biden-Harris administration must tackle are a matter of life and death: get the covid crisis under control, address police brutality and community policing, and work toward true equality — economic, education, access to healthcare and public safety.