"If it smells like funk, it must be us/'Cause nobody's funky as us/'Cause we keep it stinky," chant the Black Eyed Peas on the George Clintonesque "Smells Like Funk." It is one of many songs on the hip-hop group's entertaining third album that, in the tradition of Digital Underground, De La Soul and OutKast, show how much fun rap can be when it doesn't take itself so seriously. With a refreshing, infectious playfulness, the Peas unabashedly subscribe to the motto of this disc's party anthem, "Let's Get Retarded." Helping the Peas sprout their Elephunk is new member Fergie, whose soulful vocals expand the versatility of the group, as Lauryn Hill did for the Fugees. Working with live instrumentation as well as the usual beats and samples, the Peas successfully experiment with Latin and rock sounds (with guest appearances by Sergio Mendes and Papa Roach), not to mention reggae, jazz, Middle Eastern and '80s dance music. They also turn serious for a few tunes, including the socially conscious "Where Is the Love," featuring Justin Timberlake (with whom they are touring this summer).
BOTTOM LINE: Dig into these Peas