Music played a significant part of Will.i.am's life long before he found success with the group the Black Eyed Peas. Even his everyday experiences can be musical.
"I just love music," Will.i.am explained. "And if there's not music around, then you just listen to life. The car passing by is doing a collaboration with a bird in the tree, and the jackhammer is the rhythm man and all that stuff. You just listen to that, and it's a symphony if you let it be that."
He was born William James Adams in the projects of East Los Angeles. Even though there were no other musicians in the family, there was always music in the house where he was raised by his single mother.
"I was just a kid in the projects that'd listen to the music loud," Will.i.am said. "I would blast the music on those days when [my mom] would clean the house. That meant I could go outside. So that's what music means to me, you know, have fun. Go play."
In first grade, Will.i.am began attending a prestigious magnet school in the wealthy Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. He had to ride the bus more than one hour each way.
He discovered hip-hop when he was young, but it was the school playground where Will.i.am's first raps were composed.
"That's when I realized I love rap," he said. "I love rapping. I love hip-hop. Mind you, I was like 11 or 12 years old. Sitting at the lunch tables and I had rap contests against somebody."
School was also the time when he began expressing himself.
"When I got into junior high school, that's when my mom let me dress how I wanted to dress," he said. "Up to that point I wore suits to school all the time."
In 1989 he met Allan Pinedo Lindo, who is better known as Apl.de.ap, his future Peas bandmate. The pair discovered a mutual love of music and break-dancing. They were fast friends, and soon formed a break-dancing group called Tribal Nation.
The duo began performing around Los Angeles. Will.i.am even dropped out of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, after just one semester, so he could pursue music full-time.
They gathered a following and even recorded some music, but it wasn't until another performer named Taboo joined the group that they had any real success. They became the Black Eyed Peas, and got a record deal with Interscope Records.
In 2001 the group forever changed when they invited the singer Fergie to join and recorded their mega-hit "Where is the Love," a song about their experiences as a band touring America after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We went on tour Sept. 13 and traveled America," Will.i.am said, "All those people we met and interacted with in New York and all the other places we went to. [I said] let's just talk about where we just came from. That experience on the road right after 9-11. And so that's what we wrote about."
In addition to his success with the Black Eyed Peas, Will.i.am also has an impressive career as a Grammy-nominated music producer. He has produced songs for a diverse group of artists, including Sergio Mendes, Ricky Martin, John Legend and, most recently, Michael Jackson. He produced some of these artists' biggest hits, such as Legend's "Ordinary People."
"When you write a melody that's so infectious that it can be translated into multiple instruments, those are the songs that I take with me as far as book-marking my life," he said.
In 2007, following in his bandmate Fergie's footsteps, Will.i.am released a solo album called "Songs About Girls." The album was inspired by a tumultuous seven-year relationship with a girlfriend.
Ray, Goodman & Brown, "Special Lady"
One of Will.i.am's earliest memories of a song is "Special Lady" by the R&B group Ray, Goodman and Brown. It was a favorite of his mother. She used to play it frequently when he was young.
"I'm like a mama's boy and stuff," Will said. "I used to sing that to my mom."
Earth, Wind & Fire, "Reasons"
Many of Will.i.am's favorite songs are ones he heard from his mother when he was young.
"Every single song that I've listened to is in my memory forever," He said. "So when I listen to them again the first time I heard that song, and the emotion that I felt when I heard that song are recalled."
Will also loves the song "Reasons" by Earth, Wind & Fire, which was another favorite of his mom's.
"I think my mom loved the live version," Will recalled. "She liked the original version, but she loved the live version because you know she probably wanted to go to an Earth, Wind & Fire concert. So listening to the live version felt like you were there at the concert. And that became my favorite version because that's the one my mom played."
Frankie Smith, "Double Dutch Bus"
Frankie Smith's "Double Dutch Bus" is another favorite of Will's because of it's resemblance to early hip hop. Smith's deep voice also captivated Will.i.am's attention.
"I used to walk around the neighborhood," he remembered. "I used to sing that song the 'Double Dutch.' I used to put my voice in a little frog voice. They used to call me 'froggy.'
RUN-DMC, "My Adidas"
One of the first hip hop rhymes that Will.i.am wrote in middle school he readily admits was stolen from RUN-DMC's hit "My Adidas." After a fellow student teased him for not having a swatch watch he wrote a rap about why his A brand watch was better then the popular swatch watches.
"I just totally bit Run DMC right, verbatim" he said. "I was twelve-years-old. They had 'My Adidas' and I had 'My A Watch.' Run DMC is like one of my favorite groups too. And that's when I knew I wanted to rap.
Tribe Called Quest, "Bonita Applebum"
It was through a group called Tribe Called Quest that Will.i.am discovered a whole host of artists from 1970's that would influence him. Artists like Herbie Hancock that Tribe would sample. One of his favorite songs by the group is called "Bonita Applebum."
"De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest educated me on old jazz musicians that were in the Disco era," he explained. "When I got a little older I started digging expanding my vocabulary on music."
Will.i.am had a hard time coming up with just five songs to mention. He can find something to love in every genre and nearly every musician.
"I love music so much that if one artist was to be the all and end all, then it would be an injustice to music," Will said. "So I just love music."