JanSport generated huge buzz at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, announcing that it's developing a line of urban-inspired daypacks with the Black Eyed Peas, a hip-hop group now topping the arc of pop-culture fame. A percentage of pack sales will go to Big City Mountaineers (BCM), a non-profit organization that runs wilderness trips for at-risk youth. To promote the new line, JanSport hosted a Black Eyed Peas concert Aug. 11 at the Port O' Call in Salt Lake City, and donated money from ticket sales to BCM. SNEWSÂ® scored a backstage pass for the gig, and sent reporter Marcus Woolf to interview the Peas (see photo below). Here's his reportâ€¦.
8 p.m. Port O' Call
Backstage at the Port O' Call, the walls and ceiling are draped in white cloth, and cocktail tables are covered with white shaggy fur. It's like I've stepped into an episode of Yo, Pimp My Living Room, where nervous friends are waiting for the family to arrive and see their new digs. The JanSport heavies and a dozen groupies are knocking back wine and beer, while journalists hover like sharks, waiting to get their bite of the band, which is due to roll in late.
9 p.m. Sending in 'The Wolf'
I spy Will Adams (aka Will.i.am), the dreadlocked front man for the Peas, and walk over to introduce myself. Naturally, I've been contemplating this moment for days. Just how should I, an outdoor industry writer, break the ice with the Black Eyed Peas. Just make it simple, I decide. "Hey, Will, my names Marcus Woolf." He shakes my hand, then it gets weird.
Will lets out a high-pitched wolf howl, flashes a big, bright smile and says, "Do you get that a lot?" OK, so I didn't expect a howl greeting. "Yeah, I guess," I reply rather lamely. Then he says, "Are you a fan of Pulp Fiction?" My mind's racing. A wolf howl and Pulp Fiction. Just where in the heck is this going? "Yea, sure," I say, trying to play it cool.
Will launches into the movie's oft-quoted line about "sending in the wolf," then pauses, waiting for me to finish off the dialogue.
Without missing a beat, I retort, "Sheeeit, that's all you had to say!" He nods, and we tap knuckles. Ice officially broken.
9:30 p.m. On the Couch
I sit down with Will for a quick Q&A, as a crowd gathers around, and the cameras start flashing.
SNEWSÂ®: I understand you went to a design school in L.A. for a while.
Will: Well, I went for like three months.
SNEWSÂ®: But I hear you've been pretty involved with the design of the packs. Is this project another creative outlet for you?
Will: I love creating things and being around creative people, and sharing ideas. I sat in a room with the (JanSport) guys in L.A., and there was a whole bunch of energy and fun, picking through colors and fabrics. I'm looking forward to the next run we do.
SNEWSÂ®: It's great that your work will help out Big City Mountaineers and inner-city kids. What got you interested in this project?
Will: I'm from the ghetto, you know. And I'm in it because growing up I had a JanSport backpack. And (I had one) even out of high school when I would go to clubs....I don't know if you've heard of a term called "backpack rap." Like Common, Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas, Mos Def, those type of hip-hop artists are labeled as backpack rap, because we always had notepads and wrote lyrics, while gangsta rappers had guns.
SNEWSÂ®: You've played at Live 8 and even a Vote for Change concert; obviously you're interested in social issues. But you also produce plenty of party music. Are you moving more in the direction of music with a social message?
Will: Even if we didn't put out records, I would be involved. The world is a big, beautiful place, and a lot of corporate decisions get in the way of how wonderful it could be. So making music allows me to have a voice to speak about that.
SNEWSÂ®: How well do you think you're balancing the two sides -- party music and social music?
Will: We don't do songs with messages just to do 'em. If we had nothing to talk about, we wouldn't do it. It's not like, "Man, the record's done, but we ain't sayin' nothin' on it!" We just do what our heart tells us to do, or whatever the music feels like, or the chord progression feels like. It's the color of the song, and how everything plays out, that lends the subject.
9:35 p.m. and Will-time is over.
Must be how a Rolling Stone reporter feels, conducting an interview under the hot lights and attention of a fawning crowd pressing ever closer. Time for a return to reality. Maybe I'll go howl at the moon.