How do you manage to sustain the energy to be a rapper, producer and political activist? Gbemi Atimomo LAGOS, NIGERIA
Well, I love music. I was inspired by artists like Earth, Wind and Fire; Bob Marley; Peter Tosh--and they would fuse social issues into their music, so I don't think of it as political activism but social activism. I don't like politics. I find the energy to do [it all] because I'm passionate.
You say you don't like politics, but you supported John Kerry and Barack Obama. What got you involved in the process? Derrick K. Williams, DALLAS
The spark was traveling outside America and seeing it from a distance, seeing the way people viewed us. America went from this beautiful country to "Oh my gosh, you guys are so stupid." But America tomorrow could still be the light of the world.
Was each celebrity in the "Yes We Can" video strategically chosen for a certain reason? Emi Kaneshiro MILILANI, HAWAII
The "Yes We Can" video, I wish--actually, I don't wish anything. It all came together like it was supposed to, like it was already destined to exist. One person found out, told another person, and it all happened in four days. It was just a beautiful time. People were just pouring into the studio.
Did you want Fergie to join the Black Eyed Peas? Were you ever concerned that critics would deride you for selling out? Justin Castillo SALEM, ORE.
We put Fergie in because of her amazing voice, her edge and her rawness. When you follow your heart, you're never supposed to do things because of what you think people might say. You do it for the opposite reasons. So, no, we didn't have those concerns. We did it because she was a true talent.
What does the future hold for the Black Eyed Peas? Nikko Carlson CHAPEL HILL, N.C.
Better question: What does the future hold for music as a whole? If I tell my 7-year-old cousin when she's older, "Hey, you know Virgin?" She'll be like, "Yeah, I'm still a virgin." She's not going to know that at one point in time Virgin was a record store, because everything is changing. The future of the Black Eyed Peas is to wrestle with the state of the declining music industry and make content that lends itself to different formats.
What do you think about gangsta rap and its message? Bart Couder, BRUSSELS
Modern-day gangsta rap is cool. Some stuff I like. Some I don't. Every piece of entertainment sends out messages to young people, though. So what's important is that parents educate their children to know the difference between entertainment and reality.
What's the main misconception you hear about hip-hop? Jeremy Erhart ENGLEWOOD, FLA.
Hip-hop culture is probably one of the most powerful things to come out of America in a long time--everything from the music to the art to the dance to the language. What major labels choose to market has nothing to do with what hip-hop truly is. There are tons of groups that are socially conscious.
What was your reaction when Obama won? Justin Durueke, SEATTLE
I was kind of shocked, like I didn't know if it was real or not. I remember when Al Gore won and then he didn't, so I didn't really believe it [this time]. I'm still shocked now. It was a beautiful thing.
Have you written anything for the Obama Inauguration? Mel Maurer, WESTLAKE, OHIO
No, but I'm planning on going. I don't know if I have a hotel, but that's O.K., I'm used to touring in vans and tour buses. I want to be there regardless of whether I'm there with the Obama party or if I'm just there as an American.
Will having an African American as President have any effect on the state of hip-hop culture? La-Toya Duncan, BROOKLYN, N.Y.
Now that Obama's President, it changes inner-city youths. They can now not just dream to be Lil Waynes and 50 Cents, but they can now dream to be Obamas. And that's dope.
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