Who is Kim Hill? The Story of the Black Eyed Peas’ First Female Singer
Many people don’t realize it, but The Black Eyed Peas have been around for nearly three decades. Though the group’s most recognizable lineup came in the 2000s with Fergie as the lead singer, the Peas have had other vocalists to complement the rapping of will.i.am, apl.de.ap, and Taboo.
Today, singer-songwriter J. Rey Soul is the group’s featured vocalist, having contributed to their album Translation released in June 2020. When the group leaned toward alternative hip-hop in the 1990s instead of the pop-rap sound they blew up with, the Peas were accompanied by another talented singer.
Fergie wasn’t the first singer for The Black Eyed Peas
In the late ’90s, the Black Eyed Peas struggled to find their place in the music industry after their first two albums. In 2002, they recruited Fergie to join the group, and the group launched to stardom with albums such as Elephunk, Monkey Business, and The E.N.D. But before there was Fergie, there was an up-and-coming singer by the name of Kim Hill.
Kim Hill is a singer, songwriter, DJ, and as of recently a makeup mogul who is best known as the first featured vocalist in the Black Eyed Peas. At the time, the group was a trio consisting of will.i.am, apl.de.ap, and Taboo, and they invited different singers to contribute vocals to their songs.
Hill sang on many of the tracks on the Black Eyed Peas’ albums Behind the Front and Bridging the Gap in the late ’90s, as well as songs for the soundtracks of Love & Basketball and the original Scary Movie. Since leaving the group in 2001, Hill has maintained a relatively low profile, performing as a solo artist and doing occasional acting gigs. She’s also worked as a DJ, and in 2018, she launched her cosmetics brand Next of Kim.
Kim Hill was on TV before she was a musician
In 2019, Hill spoke with The New York Times about what really happened behind the scenes when she was a part of the Peas, and how she got to be the group’s first featured vocalist.
Hill grew up in Syracuse, New York, and acknowledged that she lived a “privileged” upbringing despite being raised by a single mother in a majority white area. She always loved music, and eventually she decided to move to Los Angeles and try to land a record deal.
Almost immediately, Hill began auditioning for TV roles and appeared on shows such as the classic sitcom Living Single as a background actor. One night, Hill was performing at a showcase and caught the attention of three “kids” from East LA who introduced themselves as “The Black Eyed Peas.”
Hill described their relationship as a “big sister-little brother” dynamic, and soon enough, The Black Eyed Peas — with Hill in tow — were on their way. They began to open for some of the biggest musical acts at the time such as Eminem and No Doubt and OutKast, and Hill herself “couldn’t believe that our brand of hip-hop was being embraced.”
Kim Hill left The Black Eyed Peas because she was oversexualized
Hill’s first concern with the group was that they seemed more intent on going “commercial” instead of remaining true to the sound that they were known for. Soon, more eyebrow-raising things started happening after they got new management.
It started when she was told to grind on will.i.am in a bathing suit, and start amping up her sexuality in performances and music videos. “That was being asked of me — never by the guys. That was happening from an executive level,” she recalled. “The tug-of-war was about my sexuality and how much of that I was willing to literally strip down.”
“I never wanted to be objectified while doing my music,” Hill resolved. “This really deep brother-sisterhood was starting to get affected by the machine. I didn’t want that burden on my shoulders, so I wrote a letter to management and said, ‘Nope.'”
There was no love lost between Kim Hill and the Black Eyed Peas
In the years after her departure, Hill was one of the millions of people who couldn’t escape the Black Eyed Peas. She never harbored any ill will toward them, and was even moved to congratulate them on their success.
“I turn on the TV and I saw Will was so happy. And I was like, ‘Whoa, he did it,'” she remembered. “I called and I was like, ‘I’m away, I’m going through a tough time, and I saw you on TV and you were happy. And I just need you to know I’m happy for you. You did it.”
Will.i.am told Hill that he missed her and that the group was different without her. “I just knew we’d be fine,” she said.
Even though Hill and Fergie have never met, she thinks they would empathize with each other as women in the music industry — and the female members of The Black Eyed Peas specifically. “If we ever met, it would be like an embrace with a hug and a deep breath because I think we just kind of know something about being that female and that construct, and it’s tough,” she said.
Ultimately, Hill doesn’t regret leaving the group and not being a part of their mainstream success. “It’s okay that it’s not wrapped in a bow with Platinum records and a big house,” she says honestly, as she’s shown on-screen playing with her son. “I have my happy.”