Film / TVMusicWe See You

kim hill, once a black eyed pea, tells her story

December 18, 2019
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The past few years have been full of revivals. We’ve been spoiled by the resurgence of old stories by the people who brought them to us in the first place. From reboots of TV shows like “Making The Band” or “Full House” to groups like Destiny’s Child or Outkast reuniting for brief moments, it has been made clear that the stories we once thought had ended are still being written. 

There has been immense joy in witnessing some of our favorite people make their way back to each other. Although the idea that the industry wants to reboot just about everything can be worrysome, some true gems have come out of this era. For many, this has been a second chance to rewrite their legacy in a way previously unimaginable for lack of resources. Social media and a generation that craves the truth has created an entirely new avenue for storytelling. Once upon a time, a select few had the only say, and now they do not. This progress has given us new perspectives to old stories like Robyn Crawford’s recent sharing of her life with Whitney Houston. 

The new short documentary series Almost Famous is a direct response to culture at this moment. The series of short films features people who nearly made history. New York Times describes their series as “tales of overcoming disappointment at its most epic, from an astronaut who never flew to a superstar who never was.”

One of the people featured in this series is Kim Hill, a former rising singer who nearly took the journey to fame with the group The Black Eyed Peas. Hill, who grew up in Syracuse, New York, was raised in a predominantly white neighborhood and as a result struggled to balance her Black and white friendships, which were never mixed. A lot of her childhood energy revolved around keeping her two loving worlds separate which, as denying your whole self always does, hurt her deeply. She describes a particular instance at her 16th birthday party that altered the trajectory of the rest of her life. When Hill’s mom had her have one party with all her friends instead of two, she found herself in an overwhelming position full of code-switching and the potential humiliation of being caught doing it. She recounts telling her mother a story at the party in which she repeated the word “like” and spoke in a voice reflecting her school peers more so than herself. Her mom interrupted her to ask what happened to her voice and asked “where are you?” That question stayed with Hill forever. 

This internal turmoil and confusion fueled by duality followed Hill to other aspects of her life. Growing up, Hill loved hip hop for its beats and the progressive thoughts behind some of it. As the medium grew and became deeply misogynistic and degrading at times, she struggled with it as both a music lover and a woman. She met, a disciplined talent with the ability and desire to create innovative, meaningful music and upon hearing one song immediately agreed to make music with him. They developed a big sister, younger brother relationship and shared a common goal along with the other members of the band (Taboo and As described in an interview of featured in the doc, “Hip Hop was progressive, it started to regress at one point in time, so we made it our duties to progress it again.”

As the Black Eyed Peas gained immense popularity in the underground LA Scene, they began to tour with huge acts like No Doubt and Eminem. They even performed on Soul Train, a lifelong dream of Hill’s although it was tainted by executives who forced them to lip-sync. The band rebelled against this demand by making it obvious that it was not a live performance by smiling instead of singing while the track played. This was an act of resistance from them in favor of their artistic integrity. 

As the band grew, they had to make a decision. They were packaged more commercially than ever before, which meant Hill was expected to play the role of a more sexual woman. Wondering why her music alone was not enough, she found herself thinking of her mother’s question, “where are you?” She decided to quit the band. There were no hard feelings between the group: they understood her reasons to leave and she understood theres for staying.

Through Almost Famous, Hill has reclaimed her narrative and squashed the one centered on tension between her and Fergie, who she has never met. She imagines if they did meet, she would wrap her in a hug full of love and understanding of what it takes to hold the position of a woman in the industry. She is proud of her bandmates for their success and has found her own success in her child, her integrity, and knowing that she was a part of impacting hip hop forever without compromising herself.