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Taboo From Black Eyed Peas Shares His Story of Activism

Taboo From Black Eyed Peas Shares His Story of Activism

Posted By Paul G October 18th, 2021 Last Updated on: October 18th, 2021

Taboo from the Black Eye Peas joins Paul G on the Pow Wow Life podcast.  

Taboo is a Grammy Award winner, author, comic book creator, activist, father, husband, and cancer survivor.  Taboo shares where his motivation to help make changes comes from.  He discusses feelings of not being enough – not Native enough. 

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Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Pow Wow Life Podcast from powwows.com. Connecting you with native culture since 1996. Here's your host, Paul Gowder.

Paul Gowder:

Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Pow Wow Life Podcast. I am Paul Gowder from powwows.com. Thank you again for being here. To all those out there that have found us through Facebook, we really appreciate Facebook promoting the podcast and it's awesome, but don't miss an episode. You know how Facebook is. Hey, they just went down this week for a whole day, and you never know what the formulas are going to show you and the algorithms and all that. So, make sure you head over to Spotify or Apple Podcast or Stitcher, any of the podcast platforms and hit subscribe, so you don't miss an episode of the Pow Wow Life Podcast.



Paul Gowder:

Don't miss out on your chance to win one of the powwows.com's prize pack with our stickers and other goodies. Listen to the end of the episode for this week's trivia question. Last week's question was, who was the last Miss Indian World that served two years because of the pandemic. Each year, Gathering Nations crowns a Miss Indian World and right now the title is actually vacant, because she served two years and they decided to end her term. And we'll just crown a new one at the 2022 Gathering Nations. But that person is Cheyenne Kippenberger from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. She was a fantastic Miss Indian World and was a wonderful ambassador to tribes all over the country, and even during the pandemic, she was an incredible ambassador for us. All right. That's last week's question. Don't forget to stay tuned to the end of this episode for another question.

Paul Gowder:

I want to say a special thanks too, to all of you who joined us at the Morongo Live Stream. Oh, it was so good to be back at a pow wow. I waited two years to be back. Thank you all if you came out and you participated online and watched and jumped in the chat and talked to us. It was fantastic to see you all. We'll have more of those coming soon. Not too many more this year. We do have one in December. But 2022, hopefully we'll be back streaming even more pow wows, so I hope to see you online. You can find out more about those by visiting www.powwows.com/watchlive.

Paul Gowder:

I am really excited for this week's guest. You know him from the Black Eyed Peas and of course, his work with Standing Rock and other issues all over Indian country. I was super excited that he was able to spend some time with me and talk a little bit about what he's got going on and all the issues he's been helping out with and his background and all. So, here is my interview with Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas.

Paul Gowder:

Special guest today, needs no introduction. Let's see, he's an activist, a pop star, a Grammy Award winner, songwriter, actor. His band had the number one and number two song at the same time. He's a comic book creator, a cancer survivor, and now a children's book author. Taboo, thank you so much for spending some time with me.

Taboo:

Thank you, man. Most of all, I'm just proud to be Jaymie's husband and father to my kids, brother. When it's all said and done, I'm just a husband and a father and I'm very humbled and very proud to be on your show.

Paul Gowder:

Thank you. That's my favorite thing too. Being a dad is something that I knew I wanted to do, but you never know how great it is until you get to do it.

Taboo:

Oh man, it's such a blessing because just to jump right in, I feel like my professional career has been such an amazing journey. But life as a father, as a husband, has been an even better journey just because of the every day being present, being available to just see the kids grow on a daily basis. And even now, with what happened with the pandemic last year, I got to spend every waking hour, every minute with my daughter, who's now five. And prior to me, back in the early beginnings of Black Eyed Peas, I sacrificed being away from my oldest son, Josh, so that I can provide a stable lifestyle for him. And now he's 28 years old. So, just the beauty of being present and available right now in this point in my kid's life is such a blessing, and that's why I never take it for granted, man.

Paul Gowder:

Yeah. The pandemic, it changed a lot of things, but I will always be thankful for the same thing. I got to work at home some. My daughter and I… I took up playing disc golf and we went, it was two months, we went every day together and played. That's time, I won't ever trade that for anything.

Paul Gowder:

Well, speaking of your kids, you have been active in so different things, whether it's the American Cancer Society or Standing Rock, you really speak out on some of these issues. Where did that come for you and how are you teaching that to your kids?

Taboo:

That came from my grandmother. My grandmother was the matriarch of my tribe. That's why I wear this shirt with pride, to let folks know that strong, proud, difficult… Strong, proud, beautiful native women, my grandmother was that person to me. And she was the matriarch of my tribe. She inspired me to be the person that I am today. She was my hero without a cape. She was my superhero, man. Everybody always goes to superheroes or people that were on television. My grandmother was that person for me. She urged the essence of performing, dancing, she encouraged it. She gave me the blessing of being able to always know that she was the person, the motivation to go after my dreams and aspirations when others were like, “You need to get a job. You need to do this, that and that.”

Taboo:

And third, my grandmother's like, “No, if you want to be a performer, you step on that stage and you be the best version of you.” So, within that performance aspect, she also was big on giving back and utilizing her gifts as a person that was always being of service, sometimes to her own detriment. She was a proud Native woman from Jerome, Arizona. And she would put a lot of people before her health, before herself. So, I got that idea of how I can be of service and help others after I survived cancer because I had a strong-willed mind that came from my grandmother's, her heart and her essence. And after I beat cancer in 2014, I said to myself, I surrender my ego. I surrender everything that is about me. Now, I want to make it about we and how it could be a service to us.

Paul Gowder:

That's awesome, that is really cool. We followed you on powwows.com for a long time and, not that this is a bad thing, but you see a lot of celebrities, they make donations or whatever. But you really get involved with these issues. You were there at Standing Rock. You've really gotten an active role. To me, I just want to say thank you. That's awesome to see that people take that active role and really help, like you said, really take that spirit that you've been taught and really hand that down. That's awesome.

Paul Gowder:

On powwows.com, we have an article about the Standing Rock thing. It's one of the most popular articles on our site for years. So, I do have to ask you about that. Where did the song that you did for that, that you won a VMA for, where did that all come from? I know you had a collaboration with several people?

Taboo:

It came from my heart, honestly. I felt like I needed to do something and utilize my strength as a musician, as an artist, but most of all, as a Native. Being able to use my platform and my bridge in art and music so that I can amplify what was happening at Standing Rock, so that I can uplift the spirits of the water protectors and every indigenous person from the US, all the way around the world, because I'm all about activating and being, I guess you can say, being a voice for indigenous people around the world. It's not just in the US, it's not just in Canada, but actually going to Brazil and Australia and all these different regions where we have indigenous people as well. And that essence just came from my heart. And when I brought the Mag 7 together, all the seven emcees, Emcee One, Drezus, Doc and Spence, SupaMan, PJ Vegas from the Redbone family. MyVerse, the female that was rapping on that, she's Taino and Latina.

Taboo:

So for me, it was just being able to give back once again and use my strength as an artist. And when we got nominated, dude, we never expected… It was not for monetary gain. This was not what we expected. We didn't want to sell the song. That's why you can't it get on Spotify or any platforms because we said to ourselves, we're just contributing. And the fact that I went to Standing Rock and I stood in solidarity with a lot of the relatives and allies, was just me as Jaime Gomez, not Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas. It was just something that my grandmother would've urged, once again, urgency to be at Standing Rock, to stand in solidarity, to use whatever blessings of being a voice that I can. And it was part of my healing process too, man.

Taboo:

And just to be quite frank and honest with you, I had just beat cancer in 2014. So, I was finding a way to reconnect with my roots and fortunately, it led me to Standing Rock and it was part of this amazing resurgence of me connecting with my roots, but also feeling like I was having more life instilled in me and more life, more breath that I had when I went to the camp and I saw the sacred circle and we started praying together and we started chanting together, it was like a calling, a higher purpose for me. And that's why I got involved with so many other things besides Standing Rock. Indigenous Peoples' Day in Los Angeles, I went to the Native Nations March, and anything that I can be a voice and attach myself to. There was no motive, it was just being of service, that was it.

Taboo:

I didn't want anything in return. It wasn't for the Instagram, it wasn't for Twitter or for YouTube. It was just to be there because I felt like that was my calling. And the blessing was, people really gravitated to it and people were like, “Yo dude, he's super proud and he's going to be an advocate for us and utilize his big megaphone as a Black Eyed Pea and amplify indigenous people all over the world.”

Paul Gowder:

Yeah. And there are so many things, good things that came out of Standing Rock, even though it was an issue that still needs to be addressed. I hope that at some point we can remember that unity we had and that feeling of everybody being together. [crosstalk [00:11:44] We need it right now. I feel so divided right now. I hope everybody can, at some point, rekindle that.

Taboo:

Well, can I just interject on that idea. We've had some moments of momentum. When people say, oh, this is a moment, no, it's actually momentum for the movement of indigenous people coming together and utilizing the arts. For example, we have an amazing content on Hulu called Rez Dogs. Sterlin Harjo, that guy is a blessing to Indian country. Taika Waititi, right? Taika is a blessing too, man. That's my guy. I feel like what he did at the Oscars when he shined the light indigenous people and indigenous representation in mainstream media, that was a blessing for all of us. Even Rutherford Falls and seeing what Jana is doing. And there's momentum. Even what I'm doing with Marvel comics, dude, they're giving me a platform to be able to collaborate with amazing geniuses like Jeffrey Veregge who's been with Marvel as an illustrator. He's a Native kid that's been with Marvel for five years and now he's getting his proper due.

Taboo:

So, it's just shining the light on amazing Native artists, creatives, and people who are contributing on a massive scale, so that we can shine the light on Indian country. That's a connection right there. Even though you feel divided, I see signs of connectivity and people getting connected and utilizing a modern day tale of Indian country and changing the narrative of what Hollywood always perceives us at. We're not monolithic, we're not monolithic at all. It's something that's been such a stereotype and so hyper-imposed in Hollywood. And I'm glad that people are, writers, storytellers, directors, producers, are all coming together so that we can change that narrative and give you a modern day tale, but still represent Indian country.

Paul Gowder:

Yeah, and represent it well. And that's something we've talked a lot about on this show is, representation does matter.

Taboo:

Yes, sir.

Paul Gowder:

I talked to Leah a few weeks ago and it's huge when people can see themselves on film or even in a comic book. What would your 12-year-old self think if you knew one day you were going to get to write for Marvel? That stuff matters to kids these days. I hope it's going to continue that momentum and just be a wave.

Taboo:

Yeah, dude. Let me just show you something. Hold on.

Paul Gowder:

All right.

Taboo:

So, my 12 year-old-self, Billy Jack, Tom Laughlin. I saw Billy Jack as a Bruce Lee slash Charles Bronson figure growing up at that time period. So, on television, that was my guy, Tom Laughlin and we had Billy Jack and we had amazing heroes like Jim Thorpe and uncle John Trudell who was an amazing activist and poet. We had other folks like Russell Means, we had people like Jim Plunkett who was in the NFL. We had people representing for us, but not to the level we're at now. So, my 12-year-old self would probably be in awe to have Marvel attach, but not only Marvel, but having characters that are modern and kick ass characters that have a connection to my personal story. Have you seen the book, Werewolf by Night?

Paul Gowder:

Yeah. I've seen some of that. I haven't gotten a copy of it yet.

Taboo:

Yeah. Werewolf by Night, actually, I put my grandmother in the book. So, there's a page in there, Granny Rora is my grandmother. So Jake Gomez, I'm Jaime Gomez. I just flipped my own personal story and made myself a werewolf. That was something that Benny, B. Earl and myself, my partner, we made it a point to have representation, but do it where it's like a personal story, so that when we're doing panels and interviews, I'm talking from a personal experience of my connection with my Native roots. Because Jake Gomez is Native and Mexican, that's his ancestry. And that's my story as well. So, to answer your question, my 12-year-old self would be freaking out if I said, “Hey, eventually you're going to be writing, not just one book, but many books at Marvel.” And the newest book, Kushala Spirit Rider, it's just a direct nod to the matriarch system, having my grandmother, my mom, now my wife, and then my daughter be that voice and that representation of the matriarch system.

Paul Gowder:

I think you brought up a good point. Representation is amazing, but now it's not only that you can look to screens or books and see indigenous representation. But now, we're hearing indigenous stories told by indigenous people and that's even bigger to me. When you watch Rez Dogs and you see them, the scene about bead work and stuff. That's not something that's ever been on TV before. Same thing [crosstalk [00:17:23]

Taboo:

Even the slang, skoden, stoodis, this is like stoodis. These are the type of things that when you hear that fry bread, with that song about fry bread. These are amazing ways for folks that maybe… If folks that are watching that are not Native, they're like, “Wow, what's so funny about that?” Well, it's an inside joke, but also it's very traditional. And when people get a understanding and we have that cultural exchange, that's when the information is received. For so many years, there's been a misconception that Native people, all they do is wear feathers and war paint. If you're a non-native, that's like the misconception that you probably have. So, it's cool that we can educate, inform and have a cultural exchange and do it in a very authentic, genuine way where it's like, each one, teach one.

Paul Gowder:

Yeah. And that was one of the things that I talked with Leah about is, it's really cool to see a story like that come to Rutherford Falls and there not be a pow wow scene. That to me was incredible. How many other movies or TV shows have been done about Natives, and there's always a pow wow scene. As much as I love it, being from powwows.com, but to be able to tell stories and not have that scene. That was great. That was great.

Taboo:

Yeah, man. I put little personal nods to my appreciation, I'm hoping it's showing my appreciation for little items that were at my grandmother's house and JC Shelton, who's a Hopi relative, he helped us with the consulting on that, because he's from the res perspective, I was born in the city. So, my only connection to my roots was my grandmother and we're in Los Angeles. So, I didn't really know res life growing up, but I learned, and I'm still learning. I'm educating myself, and it's okay to not know everything. I'm an unapologetic Native kid that's just barely learning as much as I can. I'm going to stumble along the way, but it's okay. I'm vulnerable enough to say, I don't know everything, but I'm willing to learn and I don't have an ego about it, but I just want to be able to represent as much as possible.

Taboo:

That's why I bring cultural consultants all the time, man. I can't speak for every nation and tribe. I'm a voice but I don't speak for all of us, I just speak as one of us. And that's the important thing, when you're able to bring folks, for example, Khushala is Apache. I'm not Apache, so I can't speak on that with an authentic representation. So, I brought in my Apache brother from the San Marcos tribe band, his name is Tony Duncan. And so, I brought him in to give us that connection, but also highlight him as a hero in Indian country.

Paul Gowder:

That's great. And that's the next logical step in this representation is now, not only are we going to tell indigenous stories, but we're going to start telling Navajo stories and actual tribal stories and that's going to be a really amazing thing to see that come.

Taboo:

Yeah, it's a blessing dude. And I'm glad I'm immersed in it. Every day is a learning experience for me. I'm glad that I can share that information with my kids. My kids are Native, Mexican and Filipino. My wife is Filipino, so it has a lot of cultural exchange within my family. And we learn from each other and we went to the Philippines and learned about her province, where her family was brought up in. And it was amazing because my kids know my side because I'm always talking about it and my wife talks about her side. So, it's a beautiful cultural exchange.

Paul Gowder:

And so, now you're writing a book about identity and which is so important in this representation. How did this project come about?

Taboo:

So, a Kids Book is an amazing partnership because not only did I get to write this great book, I also got to invest in this company. It's a multimedia company and it's not just books. It's a podcast, eventually it'll be TV, a movie. We're just going to continue growing this amazing multimedia platform. I got to write this book because my kids, I wanted to do something to inspire my kids. I'm in the kid's space, man, and I'm just being 100% honest with you. Black Eyed Peas is an amazing vehicle with my music. I do this for the world with Black Eyed Peas, but now with my act two, just like Kobe Bryant, rest in peace, did after he stopped playing basketball, when he retired, he focused on kids' programming, kids' books, documentaries, multimedia programming that he was going to release and launch. I'm on that same trajectory because I was inspired by his movement and what he did to give back to his daughters and inspire other kids.

Taboo:

Same thing I'm doing, man. So, book about identity was something that I've dealt with since I was a kid, being multicultural, not being Mexican enough and not being Native enough, not being from the res, being from the city. Are you an urban Native? Well, you're not born in Mexico, you're born in East LA, what are you? You're indigenous, not indigenous. So, it's all this crazy banter back and forth in my head growing up and not really knowing who I was on an ethnic side, on a multicultural level until I started really understanding and embracing both cultures, and knowing the indigenous perspective and the ancestry of both cultures before colonization. How powerful being indigenous is and being a voice.

Taboo:

So, I said to myself, I want to make it inclusive by not just writing a book about ethnicity or background. We can talk about identity within gender, faith, spirituality. When you find your crew and you find your identity within your crew, just like I do with Black Eyed Peas. We found our identity as a group, as brothers, and then we individually found our identities outside of Black Eyed Peas as well.

Paul Gowder:

Yeah. And you're talking about kids, it's been fun. My daughter's 17 and that's one of the things that has been fun to watch is, her find her crew and really come into her a own and found her own identity. That's so huge for kids, just to know that you don't have to know all the answers, like you said earlier, you don't have to know all the answers at 12 or 14, but it's okay.

Taboo:

Yeah, dude. And honestly, it's something that I've come to grips with. I'm not going to appease everybody. I can't. That's the thing that I learned in Indian country is, you can't please everybody. There's going to be some people who say, you stepped on a landmine when you're trying to be of service. I don't take it personal because I know that, like I said, I am unapologetic about not knowing everything. It's like, dude, all I'm trying to do is give back and use this amazing blessing and partnerships and opportunities like A Kids Book About or Marvel comics. I'm always going to give back to Indian country, even my Flow Water [crosstalk [00:24:22], it's about honoring, but also giving back to tribal communities where the water is sourced from responsibly, because that's my mission. That's been my thing since I beat cancer. I dedicated my life outside of Black Eyed Peas to be able to put Indian country on the map in any way that I can as a voice.

Paul Gowder:

I do have to ask, to read about your battle and to hear you talk about it, how are you now? Everything good, healthy now?

Taboo:

Everything's good. Yeah, everything is good. My health is good. I just went to see my doctor a month ago and he was like, “You're right on track, just make sure you stay on course.” As far as the cancer thing, it's always in the back of my mind. I'm not going to lie to you. There's so much trauma that I experienced during that time period, mentally and physically. But I try to keep a very positive and optimistic mindset, especially because I have a wife and kids to keep on living for. I got so much story to tell, so much life to live. But yeah man, I'm blessed that I haven't had any major health issues besides that, so I'm good.

Paul Gowder:

That's great, and right now things are crazy with the world health.

Taboo:

That's another thing is, you got to be so mindful and cautious, especially from the thing that I battled in 2014 and knowing that my immune system is weak. I'm, what do they call, underlying-

Paul Gowder:

Conditions.

Taboo:

Yeah, so underlying conditions. That for me, I have to be extra cautious and careful and just be mindful that I live in a house with a wife and kid, so I don't ever want to have a misstep where I get sick and then my whole family gets sick.

Paul Gowder:

Yeah. It's one of those things you just have to look out for. It's a crazy time we're living in right now. All right. So, the book coming out, is it out yet?

Taboo:

It's out at the end of September. Right now, we're just trying to get as much buzz going. I'm posting about it, A Kids Book is posting about it. So, we're trying to build a organic momentum. You have Black Eyed Peas fans chiming in, and you have all these support systems from different parts of the world. And also A Kids Book is very supportive on bringing interviews and different opportunities to talk about the book, but also the partnership and the investment side of things.

Paul Gowder:

Awesome. And I have to ask too, so have you been able to take the band and some of those folks out to a pow wow or anything? Have you been able to give them that experience?

Taboo:

You know what, they haven't, dude. I've taken my family, of course, that's without question. But one thing that we did do as a group, that I spearheaded, was performing at the first Indigenous Peoples' Day in Los Angeles.

Paul Gowder:

Nice.

Taboo:

So, group Black Eyed Peas performed with Redbone. So, we had the privilege and the honor of performing at the first Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Paul Gowder:

That's great. That's cool. Yeah, you got to get them out there and get them some fry bread.

Taboo:

I know. Get them some fry bread.

Paul Gowder:

Yeah, come down to Gathering in April. That'd be good. All right. Well, again, thanks for spending the time with me. It's amazing to see you really use your voice and to use your platform and not just from really a passive side, but you are out there. You're doing the work, you're out there with the people. So, thank you for that and thank you for the time.

Taboo:

Thank you, man.

Paul Gowder:

Yeah. I'll make sure I'll put notes and links to the book and your other projects too. Anything else that is coming up? What's next for you and what's going on now?

Taboo:

Yeah, so right now, we're getting ready to go on the road. We're going to do a couple dates coming up. We actually leave on the 16th and we're very proud that we got eight nominations for the Billboard Awards, the Latin Billboard Awards and we'll be participating in that on the 23rd. We'll be there. And also, we'll be performing for the first time in Egypt in late September, which is going to be amazing, because we've never performed in Egypt, let alone perform in front of the pyramids. So, we will be in Giza, performing in front of the pyramids.

Paul Gowder:

Wow. That's an amazing opportunity. Well, congrats on the nominations and I can't wait to see that performance. I hope there'll be some footage out there that we can see over here.

Taboo:

Oh for sure, man. I appreciate the love and support. And please follow me on Twitter, tab, B-E-P, T-A-B-B-E-P, on Instagram, it's taboo, T-A-B-O-O and then, Black Eyed Peas, @bep. So, stay tuned for new music, new books, new content in the kids' space. I'm excited about the future and being in the kids' space because I do this for my kids to inspire them and then to inspire millions of kids and families around the world.

Paul Gowder:

That's a great platform. Thank you so much, man. Appreciate it.

Taboo:

Thank you. Appreciate it.

Paul Gowder:

How awesome was that, to get a chance to talk with a music legend. I appreciate Taboo spending some time with us. All right. As promised, here is this week's question. The new show, Reservation Dogs on Hulu is become a big hit and we've interviewed Mike, Mike Bone, Lil Mike and Funny Bone from the show. So, one of the things the show has highlighted and made popular is some slang words that maybe you've heard, maybe you haven't. So, here's this week's trivia question. One of the words that is becoming really popular right now, in fact, we've got some t-shirts and stickers of it is, skoden, S-K-O-D-E-N. Head over to powwowlife.com, www.powwowlife.com, scroll down, and there's a box to enter the trivia question and let me know what that word means. All right, there's your trivia question for this week. If you enter correctly, you'll be put into a drawing to win a prize pack of powwows.com stickers and other merch. So, good luck.

Paul Gowder:

Also, want to say a special thank you to our Pow Wow Nation supporters. You guys out there in Pow Wow Nation have made powwows.com what it is over these 25 years, and our supporters are doing that through monthly contributions. If you want to join them, head over to powwownation.com. I'd love to have you join this exclusive community. They are really helping move powwows.com forward and I really appreciate all that support. One of the things we're trying to do, like I said earlier, is get to more pow wows in 2022 and stream those pow wows. And it's going to take a little bit of money to be able to send those teams out. So, if you'd like to see more webcasts and more live streams of pow wows, please consider making a monthly contribution over at www.powwownation.com.

Paul Gowder:

All right, everybody, I'm Paul Gowder and we do this every Tuesday. Really appreciate the support and I hope to see you at one of our live streams or somewhere else online. I hope to get to meet you, maybe even at a pow wow one day. Have a great week, and I will see you soon.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to the Pow Wow Life Podcast from powwows.com. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast to get notified of our next episode. Find a pow wow near you by visiting www.powwows.com/calendar. Support powwows.com by visiting www.powwownation.com.

 


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