Return of the Ap: of the Black Eyed Peas talks music, philanthropy and the Philippines

Filipino-American rapper and co-founder of the Black Eyed Peas,, talks about working to promote education in the Philippines, and possibly running for mayor of his hometown.

Filipino-American rapper and founder member of the Black Eyed Peas,, at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai, where he DJ’ed at the opening of the Middle East’s first Sama Eyewear boutique. Victor Besa for The National
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What do you when you’ve already achieved all your dreams? When you’ve sold 76 million records as a member of one of the biggest bands of the millennium?

If you’re Black Eyed Peas’ co-founder, you start thinking about running for mayor.

Sure, it sounds like Kanye West-style braggadocio, but for the Filipino-American rapper, it’s just another way to inspire change in the Philippines.

The multimillionaire has already invested tens of thousands of dollars into his home-grown education advocacy campaign, the Foundation, which has built schools and launched outreach programmes for children across the country.

To Apl, the idea of one day standing for mayor of his hometown, Angeles City, Pampanga, is just another piece in his poverty-busting puzzle.

It’s easy to feel that the musician, born Allan Pineda Lindo, has been somewhat overshadowed by his more notorious bandmate and best friend.

The Peas were planted when Apl met Williams Adams, the nephew of his adopted father’s roommate, in the eighth grade of high school in Los Angeles.

But while the man who became Will.i.Am remains one of the most recognisable faces in pop, Apl’s own outlandish look – he shows up to our interview in some seriously striking, heavily accessorised designer threads – is much less familiar.

With the Peas on official hiatus since 2011, Apl has found time to work on a solo album, which is set to drop early next year.

The 41-year-old also sits on the judging panel for The Voice of The Philippines – inspired by Will's role on the UK and Australian editions of the reality-TV singing competition – shoring up his influence in a homeland still dear to his heart.

This affection was crystal clear when Apl visited Dubai last week. In town to DJ at the Middle East’s first Sama Eyewear boutique, at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Apl offered a heartfelt message to the UAE’s huge Pinoy population.

As celebrity tie-ins go, it’s a fitting partnership – Apl was legally blind for most of his life, suffering with nystagmus, before having corrective laser eye surgery in 2012.

“I’m the [Peas] member that gravitated towards eyewear,” he offers as an explanation.

The Peas reunited this year to break the hiatus and celebrate the band’s 20th anniversary with commemorative single Yesterday. What did you miss most and least?

What I missed was just being onstage with the crew. There’s nothing that I don’t miss. We’ve been touring since 1998, and we had to live our lives too. Some of us, our time is ticking, specially [with] the ladies, and we have to be open to that. We’ve been on the road so much that we have to have time to start a family.

So you were hoping to start a family?

I’m not the one who had a kid, so I’m pretty much the same.

You’re not slowing it down, now you’re in your forties?

I’m not slowing down at all. I feel like I’m 25. It’s part of our lives to go out and research.

That’s what I call it – clubbing is research. You gotta know what is out there, so you can either follow that, or come up with something different.

Will promised a new Peas album this year. What happened?

We started recording, and if it’s not all together, why do it? The record won’t happen until we’re all together – my estimation, late next year.

Fergie isn’t part of the new track. Will she be on the album?

Oh yeah, definitely. We got so many songs.

What are they sounding like?

We kind of went back in time, [to] the older Peas stuff, going back to sampling and old school-influenced hip-hop. But at the same time, new. Less EDM, more hip-hop.

Your two most-recent albums were The E.N.D and The Beginning. Last time we spoke, I told you the next should be called The Middle, and you promised to pitch it to the guys. Any luck?

I think we’ve missed our slot, it’s going to have to be something like The Continuum. Full Circle.

Now you’ve reminded me about that, I gotta bring that back – I’m going to text Will after this and say, “Let’s call it The Middle, man”.

Whatever it’s called, is there a chance it could top what’s come before?

Having music out fulfils your soul, it doesn't have to be that big anymore – it's never going to be that big anymore. You can never top [2009's] I Gotta Feeling. We'll never do that again. It's about what's going to get you excited again.

More than 700,000 Filipinos live in the UAE. Do you have any message for your brothers and sisters?

I’m proud of you guys, because you had to leave your country to make a living out there. I really commend that. But don’t forget to come back – some of us forget where we come from.

Do you plan to return to the Philippines?

Definitely, when I’m older. I’d like to run later, [for] mayor in my town. Like 20 years from now.

Do you think you’d make a good politician?

I just want to help out, I want to help the youth. You don’t have to be a politician to do that, but I could use some of that money from the government to do what I need to do.