Musician and activist will.i.am joins Yahoo Finance’s Jen Rogers on this episode to discuss activism around the 2020 election as well as within the community and the importance of getting out to vote.
JEN ROGERS: Welcome to "Yahoo Finance Presents." I'm Jen Rogers. will.i.am. is the front man and founder of the Black Eyed Peas. He's an entertainer, entrepreneur, activist, and he joins me now. Will, it's the weekend before the election.
You have released a video that's been getting lots of attention on social media, "The Love." It ties together so many of the issues that we have been talking about in 2020, including Joe Biden's own words. And I want to get the background on how you came up with this idea.
WILL.I.AM: Well, I originally did it back in 2006 with Common for a song called "Dream" where we sampled and weaved Martin Luther King's speech in the course. But I always thought that I could have done more with the speech. So I did it again for Obama on "Yes We Can." And that one, I think I cracked the code just right on that piece. Because I was able to take the speech in and string it together in a way where the words were the words.
And the whole reason for doing that was for teachers to teach that speech in school. And if he can accomplish that, if we can accomplish that, then there's a better chance of him becoming the president if people are already teaching his speech.
And then this time around, I was sitting around thinking like, how can I engage? How can I create a piece of content that inspires people? And then I saw his speech at the DNC. And it hit me that that speech is the same tone and the same sentiment as "Where is the Love?" especially during my verse with, "If you only have love for your own race, then you only space to discriminate. And to discriminate only generates hate. And when you hate, then you're bound to get irate."
And that's, you know, it's aligned with the sentiment of of that speech. So the aha moment was, what if I take that speech and put melody to his words and then go into "Where's the Love?" And then I go to my verse and then the chorus and end it with his speech about, you know, decency is on the ballot. I was like, that'll be a great book end. Oh, wow, let me put this together really quick to get it out before election time. And we managed to do that virtually.
So we filmed and recorded J. Hud-- Jennifer Hudson-- over a Zoom session. Myself and Sterling got our our parts here in the UK where I'm at now and went back and forth on edits till we could match what was said. We wanted to show the images that reflected what was said.
And that's harsh, right? Because it's one thing to listen to "Where Is The Love?" and not have visuals that represent what it says. And when you have visuals that represent what it said, you realize that it's a very heavy sentiment. When you put images to what Biden was saying, it's heavy. And that heaviness is urgent on why we need change.
Because, you know, with all the jokes and the distractions and the shenanigans, we don't really realize how detrimental these games and these manipulative tactics of distractions are to the future of this country, the stability of this country, the progress. And we should be preparing our youth for a very technological tomorrow.
JEN ROGERS: I wanted to talk about the response a little bit and how it's different to some of the past songs of this nature that you've done. Because I think sometimes in the past, it was kind of felt hopeful. And this time, so many people are on edge just in my feed in seeing people's responses, they're like, I'm just, I'm crying. You know, people are still upset about this because, as you say, it's really heavy. You're trying to get out the vote with this. In a way do you also feel like people are just, they realize how dire the situation is, but they also feel hopeless in a way by the starkness of it all?
WILL.I.AM: Well hopeless, hopelessness, when I see this video and I remove myself from being, you know, I know how to remove myself from content that I make. And there's hopelessness as far as like this is what I feel right now and I don't know what to do moving forward. And then there's hopelessness like, wow, why did I let that happen? And sometimes you can get confused.
Like, for example, bad example, but when you're hungry-- when you're thirsty, your mind doesn't know if you're hungry or not. Really you're just thirsty. So the hopelessness that you feel when you watch this video is not hopelessness for today and tomorrow. That's a hopelessness from how the hell did I allow myself to get tricked, right? That was a past reflective hopelessness that you're feeling when you see that. And don't get confused. There is hope. And there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And it's not a train.
JEN ROGERS: Yesterday, I talked with Ben Jealous. He is a former president of the NAACP. He is really focused right now on getting Black men to turn out in battleground states. He thinks that they are going to make the difference, you know, in many states. What is your message to get people to the polls for Joe Biden right now?
WILL.I.AM: Take a look at America's configuration right now. Look at where we are. Look at how many families have lost loved ones because of COVID-19. Look at how many people have lost jobs. Look at how many people cannot pay their bills and their rent or mortgage. Look at how many people that are going to be facing homelessness.
That's just the past nine months. And in the past four years, just look how divided we've become. And somebody has to be held accountable and responsible for this ditch that we're in. So much pain, so much angst, so much worry, so much stress.
If someone was guiding you in a car, if your Uber driver was taking you somewhere and refused to listen to the GPS coordinates and directions and got you lost, you are going to hop out of that car. You're not going to give the Uber driver another chance once he's made you late to your meetings. Trump is that Uber driver that has us all lost and refuses to listen to the GPS because he's that stubborn driver, that uncle like, "I know where I'm going." Like, "Uncle, we are lost. You were supposed to turn right--" "I know this mad President."
That is what we are dealing with right now. Sorry for my metaphor. But I have to lighten it up because my heart is heavy.
JEN ROGERS: We've all been in that car before. To take your analogy a little bit further then, I'm going to say there are some people that feel like, "Hey, we've gone along with the Democrats for a long time and we've gotten nothing back. Well, we're going to go do it this time." Where is the accountability going to be on the other side? Will there be actual change on so many issues here, whether it's jobs or whether it's police reforms? Do you think this time it'll be different? Because that is a question that voters are asking themselves.
WILL.I.AM: OK, two things need to happen. First, in order for us to even get to the change that is necessary, we need to change the distraction agent, the chaos agent. Because to think that we're better off with, you know, the trickster, that's not realistic. Now in order to make Biden and Harris execute the things that we need for our communities, we need to align on those things as a community, a strong community fighting for the things that we need, whether that's poor blacks, that's poor whites, that's the disenfranchised, that's, you know, parents and their kids to make sure that their kids get what they need to prepare.
We need prison reform, police reform-- not police defunding, police reform, making sure that we have police officers patrolling communities that they have love for, understand the conditions of the community. Getting in accord on those issues, and with that Biden and Harris, yes, they can do that.
Take a snapshot of what happened in 2008 when Bush handed over a crippled America to Obama-Biden. Was Biden a part of the mix that got America to a healthy stable economy to then hand it off to Trump now he's claiming he did that all, right? So we know that Biden, Biden is a clean up-- he's been on the clean up committee before. In 2008 think about the mortgage crisis, think about the condition America was in. Has he been in this place before? Yes. Can he handle this mess? Yes. Should we rely on on Biden over Trump who got us in this mess? Yes.
JEN ROGERS: I just have to ask you about technology. I mean, you're very well versed in it. You have relationships that you do with IBM. You're big on AI. How much of a problem do you think technology is in the place that we have found ourselves, social media in particular?
WILL.I.AM: So technology is amazing. Technology with no regulations is scary as hell. Technology with no regulations and tech giants that are not accountable for selling our data to foreign nations and anybody that wants to buy it to manipulate and persuade us to do things we never would have done in the first place, that should be forbidden. That should be-- you know, why we don't have that, those regulations in place, I don't know.
It baffles the hell out of me. Do I love technology? Do I think technology could help, you know, educate and prepare? Yes.
Do I think technology can bring about a world that is more balanced and equal? Yes. Are we in a trajectory of a future that we are not going to like because there are no regulations? Yes.
Are there going to be jobs that are going to be threatened when the autonomous vehicle is everywhere? Yes, truck drivers, unfortunately, Uber drivers, 2030, unfortunately, cashiers, yes, unfortunately. But are there going to be jobs that we can't even imagine? Yes.
Are we going to be making those jobs? Probably not. Why? Because we're freaking distracted. Why? Because our kids can't even learn properly without freaking another freaking distraction via the chaos agent.
That is what I'm concerned about the most is staying focused and having this like rapid race to build an amazing tomorrow by preparing and educating and funding people's education to to really like create those jobs.
JEN ROGERS: We have to go. I want to ask you just one more question on something that-- I picked up the "New York Times" this morning. I know you're a hip hop artist. But Lil Wayne is the latest rapper in sort of Trump's orbit. We've had like Kanye. We've had 50 Cent. We've had Ice Cube. What is it? It gets very confusing. And this plays out on social media with-- in each of these cases as well.
WILL.I.AM: Ice Cube is the only one that should not be coupled with the list that you just said.
JEN ROGERS: OK, but--
WILL.I.AM: Ice Cube came, put together a plan and, from my understanding, you know, tried his best to see who can execute that plan, right? So before he even aligned with anyone, he was thinking about, what's good for the community? He was thinking about the community first.
And my only problem with that is he's entertaining the liar. He's entertaining someone who is just baiting him and using his Black connection to get the Black vote. And maybe he doesn't see that or think that's possible. That's my only problem with Ice Cube.
The other, as far as the rest, listen, everybody has the right to vote for whoever they want to vote for. If there is a community of folks that are on the fence and they don't know who to vote for and they're entertaining the likes of an entertainer to tell them where they should vote, and me saying that is even hypocritical because I'm an entertainer. But I'm not just an entertainer. I'm a philanthropist. And for the past 11 years, I do work in the community.
And I would urge those folks that are on the fence, if you're going to listen to an entertainer, please listen to an entertainer that has been doing work in the community, who has, you know, checkmarks on who they've helped, checkmarks on what good they have brought to communities that are underserved. And that who you should be open to listen to. I urge you to check out Chuck D. I urge you to check out who Common wants to support, John Legend, who he wants to support, before you, you know, just go on entertainer for entertainer's sake. Please, if you're that on the fence, if you're that in the crossroads, please follow the folks that are out there putting in work, regardless if there's a camera on them and a photo op.
JEN ROGERS: Well, thank you so much for all of your work, obviously, not just with this video and talking to us, but as you said, you have been on the front lines of so many issues for so long. And it's great to get a chance to talk with you. Thanks so much.
WILL.I.AM: Thank you.