Hip-hop Will.i.am Icon Planning on Taking On Sesame Street | Adweek
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First Mover: Will.i.am

The Black Eyed Peas frontman, having conquered hip-hop, now wants to take on Sesame Street

Photo: TheBridge.Co; Director: Mike Jurkovac; DP: Rolf Kestermann

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Specs
Age 37
New venture LidoKidos

You’ve created a new company, LidoKidos, to produce a line of children’s media content. What inspired you? 
In 2009, we put out The E.N.D. and “Boom Boom Pow.” I was on stage and I realized there were little kids in the audience. Not that kids aren’t cool, but you think of a family, and the 20-year-old probably doesn’t want to like the things the 10-year-old likes. “Boom Boom Pow,” everyone enjoyed it. Now we’re using sophisticated devices. Kids don’t want toy cellphones; they want the real thing. A kid can pick up a tablet and know exactly what to do with it. I thought, why does it have to be, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G … P for pony!” Why do we have to treat kids like idiots? When it comes to content, we’re still thinking like 1970.

And the proposition is ...
So I thought, I want to make music, content, products, where I fill the void I see. You want to combine play with encouragement, fun, education and dream. When you think about kids, kids want cool. I have a nephew. He’s 3 years old. He sees a Ferrari; he already knows what it is. I want to make content that’s educational. He’s going to know what makes it a Ferrari, what’s the green version of a Ferrari. I don’t want to say I want to compete with Sesame Street, but I want to compete with Sesame Street.

Connect the dots for me: You’ve gone from a phenomenal music career to acting, clothing design, now media for kids. What’s the common thread?
Filling voids. Making music is filling a void. You travel around the world, listen to what’s on, see what’s missing, then you make it.

Has learning that so many kids are fans made you more careful about what you say?
I got to watch everything I do and say for my mom. But you want to be yourself. That’s more fun than singing Kumbaya songs.

You’ve also been a creative consultant to Intel. What do you do for them?
I’m signing with a record company and when you think about it, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Intel actually makes sense. I take pride in working with them, coming up with concepts. Like, “Hey, I think there’s a trend where you should think about putting chips in this.” And the only way you’re going to know that is if you travel. Go to Singapore, go to China, go to Austria. It’s not stuff that’s out there. It’s, here’s what’s not happening. They take my consultations seriously.

With all these other ventures, how do you find time for music? 
Music is second nature to me. It’s breathing. I can’t stop it if I wanted to. I’ve studied myself to the point where I know what environments I have to be in to stimulate myself to make music faster. It’s travel, going to conferences, clubs, doing philanthropy.

Is there a digital device or app you can’t live without?
I like Instagram. Instagram is really dope. Let’s pretend it’s 2008. In 2008, Polaroid went to CES and was talking about their new digital camera. I remember. I was there. “Check it out—our new digital camera.” And Kodak was figuring out what they were doing. And then some kids said, “Yo, man, we’re going to do an application. And those filters that are on Photoshop, we’re going to take the best ones and put them on an app. Yeah, dude, let’s do that.” So they went to some venture capitalists, got $200,000, $400,000 to do that app. Because they filled the void, they crippled Kodak forever. But a person that’s talking cannot be the disrupter. Otherwise you’d be interrupting yourself. So here comes Instagram. They became the disrupters. That’s why people that see voids are important. ­­