In 2005 I was seven, so it is no surprise that I missed out on the greatest album of all time: 2005 was the year that “Monkey Business” by The Black Eyed Peas was released. The album is made up of 15 absolute bangers—some are individual hits in their own respect while others remain hidden treasures—blessed with the talents of Justin Timberlake, Q-Tip, James Brown, CeeLo Green, John Legend, Jack Johnson and Sting, to name a few. I will first go through the album song by song and then dive deeper into the reasons why “Monkey Business” is the best album of all time.
The album starts off with two of the most popular songs: “Pump It” and “Don’t Phunk With My Heart.” These two songs, while legendary cultural relics and undoubtedly standards of the early 2000s, represent the sort of mainstream bops that The Black Eyed Peas are known for and do not fully encapsulate the overflowing talent contained in this album.
The third track is “My Style,” which features the beautiful songbird we know as Justin Timberlake and is arguably one of the best songs on the album. It starts out with a syncopated repetition of the refrain “Lord have mercy” building up alongside a sweaty beat until Justin dives into the hook with the line, “I know that you like my style.” The many repeating refrains that alternate between the voices of Justin Timberlake, Will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo provide for a viscous groove that folds arrogance into gospel in a hot and yeasty dough.
Fourth on the album, “Don’t Lie,” which begins with a lilting orchestral passage, highlights Fergie’s saccharine voice as she links the hooks to the verses as rapped by Will.i.am and apl.de.ap. “Don’t Lie” really diversifies the album, as it provides an outlet for traditional acoustic pop that the Peas are not always known for.
Next on the album is probably the most well-known song, despite it not coming out as a single before the full release of the album. This, of course, is “My Humps.” Fergie’s sugary voice reappears as she is featured heavily in this track. This song, while provocative and repetitive almost to a fault, contains some of the best lines in the entire album, like “mix your milk with my Cocoa Puffs/milky, milky Cocoa/mix your milk with my Cocoa puffs/milky, milky right,” and “They say I’m really sexy/the boys they want to sex me,” which are legendary one-liners in pop culture today. The best part of “My Humps,” however, is the soulful piano outro as Will.i.am chants, “So real,” in reference to said humps.
The sixth track is “Like That,” which opens with a rhapsodic string medley sampled from Astrud Gilberto’s “Who Can I Turn to” that leads into guest star Q-Tip’s verse, littered with expertly cultivated rhymes. Along with the guests on this track, “Like That” also harkens back to the golden days of rap as it samples and references the iconic tune “Can I Kick It?” as well as “Show Business” and “The Infamous Date Rape”—a reference to Kobe Bryant’s rape trial in 2003—all by A Tribe Called Quest, one of the best rap groups of all time.
“Dum Diddly” is the next song; it is a fast-paced song in a minor key, easily lending itself to a lot of headbanging. “Feel It” is another catchy song featuring a heavy beat and beautifully rendered sexual lyrics. “Gone Going” shakes the album up a little bit, bringing in the acoustic vibes of Jack Johnson and his song “Gone.” At this point in the album, a light acoustic jam comes as a much-needed breather from all of these utter ragers. Then, “They Don’t Want Music” plunges us right back into the world of ragers and features James Brown, recalling the “phunk” of the old school days of passing beats and passing joints. Next comes “Disco Club,” which is classic funky Peas, layering the immense talents of Fergie, Taboo and Will.i.am.
“Bebot” is where Monkey Business really shines. The song is in Tagalog and celebrates the Filipino heritage of band member apl.de.ap. The word “bebot” is Tagalog for “babe,” and the song evokes apl.de.ap’s immutable appreciation of his Filipino history. The song is exciting, loud and dripping with adrenaline. It is one of those bops that you just want to scream the words to even though you cannot speak Tagalog.
Next we reach “Ba Bump,” which is absolutely saturated with sex and vulgarity in such a way that constitutes pure, unadulterated poetry. Some beloved lines in this song include “look imma be real blunt/we punch cops,” and “if you got boobies baby keep ‘em all plump.”
The next song is my favorite song on the album. It is called “Audio Delite at Low Fidelity” and it is absolute fire. The beat is Tribe Called Quest-esque, yet somehow uniquely Will.i.am. The lyrics are rhyme-filled and the hook pulls you in like one of those stretchy sticky hands. The best line in this song by far is, “three’s for your body and four’s for the ambience,” because it does not make a lick of sense, but despite that, it is transcendent. The song is mellow and the guitar and muted trumpet lines lull the listener into a trance-like state of being.
The last song on the album is “Union” which features the dulcet vocals of Sting. This song is an inspirational ballad preaching peace and unity. Sting’s voice melds perfectly with Fergie’s background vocals and the saxophone soars above both voices in jazzy interludes.
What other album features the legendary talents of not only The Peas, but John Legend, Q-Tip, Sting, Jack Johnson, James Brown and Justin Timberlake? Is there another mainstream pop album that features a song in Tagalog? What other album combines the perfect amount of pure sex with fat phunk to form the hottest tunes known to humanity? The Peas truly broke new ground with their 2005 release of Monkey Business: they pioneered diversity in features, language and content, all while honoring and paying homage to the hip hop legends that came before them. I have listened to this album seven times through in one day and am not sick of it. The eighth time through the hour-long album still forces me to have my own personal rager in my room. So do yourself a favor: swallow your pride and listen to The Black Eyed Peas, they will change your entire life.
I want to thank Molly Reese for her guidance and compassion.