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.