22 July 2021
22 July 2021
Fast cars were a clear point of fascination for the teenaged will.i.am. The daily bus ride to school took him from Boyle Heights across town to affluent West Los Angeles. He and his brother Carl loved to spend the journey pointing out all the supercars they wanted to own when they grew up.
The supercar dreams have come true for William Adams, aka will.i.am (46), who has become one of the most successful pop musicians of his time.
His passion for hip-hop first set him on this path. He began his career in 1988 with his very first performances in a rap group that he founded with a friend at the age of 13. A mere few years later, his band, Black Eyed Peas, was climbing to the top of the charts with their albums and singles. will.i.am had become an enormously successful producer and songwriter.
Seven Grammys are just one indication of his success. Justin Bieber, U2 and Lady Gaga are just some of the stellar names on his list of collaborators, which reads like a who’s who of the most successful music stars of the last two decades. Some credit will.i.am for their greatest hits.
There is one thing that very few people know about him: he is always looking for new challenges – even ones away from the musical arena. “I keep asking myself: What can I do to be useful? How can I do things even better than before? Music is all about making sense and finding harmony in sounds.”
Hip-hop was will.i.am’s first creative home. However, technology and cars have long since become a close second. He affectionately calls the first car that he designed himself “The Monster”. It is one of will.i.am’s first visions – outside the recording studio, that is – to come true. The supercar, only vaguely identifiable as the classic car inspired by its original designers, was entirely his own creation. Long before car manufacturers started to put large displays in the middle of cockpits, will.i.am customised his car by building his iPad into it.
A pioneering spirit and dedication to solving technological and design problems has also made him a big fan of Mercedes-AMG: “AMG means passion.” For him, it also means never being satisfied with the status quo, getting more out of a vehicle than most would have thought possible. So who better than will.i.am to be the first guest in the all-new official Mercedes-AMG series “AMG Uncovered” on YouTube? Here, he also reveals that he has been dreaming of using his own ideas to modify a Mercedes-AMG GT C. Naturally, he already has the name for this vehicle: will.i.amg.
Curiosity and creative urge drive the artist in him. He attributes both of these qualities to his roots: William Adams and his brother were raised by their single mother in a rougher neighbourhood of East Los Angeles, California. Despite their situation, his mother took it upon herself to send her two sons to a school in the wealthier West Los Angeles area. That was the place where will.i.am eventually found what he now calls his fuel: recognition, encouragement and support. These things sparked his ambition and inspired him to set himself ambitious goals – which he then went on to achieve.
Firstly, world success as a musician. Then, founding his own company, i.am+, as a second pillar. Because after will.i.am had achieved almost everything he could in music, he began seeking new goals. His ambition and the elation of trying out new things does not simply dry up, but keeps breaking new ground.
will.i.am is always mindful of his roots. In 2010, he decided to get involved in helping tsunami victims in Indonesia. And this experience made him acutely aware of just how fractured his home environment – East Los Angeles, where he grew up with his brother and mother – still was.
“When you mix little education and a lack of perspectives, you get a recipe for disaster, like a tsunami of poverty every day. I felt strongly compelled to give something back to my old community.” So he launched a programme that aims to prepare kids for university and future jobs. This means that young people receive the assistance that had until that point been denied to them and that was also so instrumental in will.i.am’s success: support, mentoring and tutoring. The first course started in 2012 with a total of 65 young people. Since then, thousands of children and young adults have benefited from the initiative. It is their gateway to prestigious universities like Brown, Dartmouth, Stanford and UCLA.
But will.i.am just can’t sit still. “Life is all about creating,” he says, summing up his overarching philosophy. For example, during the pandemic he designed a mask that not only filters air, but also incorporates a microphone and music player. His creative drive – and the optimism that comes with it – are positively infectious. will.i.am pulls others along in his wake. This is just as true for the disadvantaged students he helps as it is for the many musicians whose most successful hits he produced.
And the same can also be said for the companies that he has worked with. Actually, it applies to each one of us: will.i.am doesn’t sit back and wait for the next opportunity to come along; he creates it himself. If he can’t solve a problem right away, he simply gets into his car. “I hit the road and just drive. And think.” The brainwaves flow all by themselves with his thoughts inspired by the powerful engine of his Mercedes-AMG GT C.
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By Alex Stolz