by Mona Jhaveri - August 12, 2020

Taboo

Jaime Luis Gomez, professionally known as Taboo, is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, and DJ, best known as a member of the popular hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas. 

He was born in July of 1975 in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, to Mexican parents, but he also has Shoshone Aboriginal heritage from his grandmother. His Shoshone grandmother taught him the values of his cultural heritage as he was growing up, and he carried these onto an international stage.

After settling on their name following several changes, Black Eyed Peas welcomed Jamie as their newest member and went on to release their debut album Behind the Front. Unlike other hip hop acts in Los Angeles, they would perform with a live band, adopting musical and clothing styles that differed wildly from everybody else. Taboo is well-known for his guttural spoken reprises of the last words sung in the song, as well as his emphatic flourishes between vocal parts.

Their second album, Bridging the Gap, came out in 2000, with a noticeable single “Request + Line” that featured Macy Gray. In 2003, Fergie became the fourth and final member of the group. From there, they began to string together successes, winning six Grammy Awards and selling an estimated 60 million records worldwide. 

In 2003, Black Eyed Peas released their third album Elephunk, with hit singles ‘Shut Up’ and ‘Where is the Love?,’ and in 2005, their fourth album Monkey Business became a worldwide success. It was certified three times Platinum by the RIAA in the US, spawning singles ‘Don’t Phunk with My Heart’ and ‘My Humps’.

In 2009, the group released its fifth album, The E.N.D. With it, they became one of only 12 artists to have simultaneously held no.1 and no. 2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100. The singles ‘I Gotta Feeling,’ ‘Boom Boom Pow,’ and ‘Meet Me Halfway’ topped the chart for an unprecedented 30 consecutive weeks that year.

While all of this was happening, Taboo had some well-publicized issues with addiction, but he managed to overcome it. He focused on making his solo music and writing his autobiography Fallin’ Up: My Story, which was released in 2011. 

But his real battle was just over the horizon. He had been suffering from chronic back pain after he fell off a stage in 2006, and in 2014, he felt the pain intensify in his back and abdomen. Soon after, Jamie was diagnosed with stage 2 testicular cancer and went through 12 weeks of intense, aggressive chemotherapy. 

“I had pain, but I never dealt with it. I didn’t listen to my body. I went on tour until it got worse. I had tumors in my spine that had come from my testicle,” Jamie said of his ordeal. “The first thing I felt was shock and confusion. I could only think about my kids,” he continues. “There were times I wanted to give up. It was brutal.”

Fortunately, his cancer is now in remission, and the battle gave him the strength to help provide better healthcare access for Native people. He also often visits cancer centers to give patients mental and emotional support.

We are happy to see such an inspiring and driven agent of positive change. Let’s just hope he will continue to make a difference in people’s lives!

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