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Fallin' Up: My Story Hardcover – February 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (February 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439192065
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439192061
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,559,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Taboo is a rapper, singer and dancer and member of the Grammy award winning hip-hop group The Black Eyed Peas. He lives in Los Angeles with his family.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

LEAVING DOG TOWN

We all say we’re misfits in the Black Eyed Peas, and I really was born one. I’ve often imagined the looks on everyone’s faces when I arrived into the world on July 14, 1975, shortly after one o’clock on a baking Los Angeles afternoon. There I was waiting to burst onto life’s stage as this eagerly awaited, dark-skinned Mexican-American boy with Native American ancestry, and then I arrived . . . as light-skinned as could be.

“Oh look, he’s as white as a coconut!” were the first words that greeted my birth, spoken by my father, Jimmy.

With parents who were both dark and with Shoshone blood running thick on Mom’s side, this was not the shade of baby that had been ordered.

Uncle Louie, my mom’s brother, arrived in the room, took one look at me and said: “He looks like a long white rat!”

Mom said she was just grateful I came out fast.

I’m not saying I was a disappointment. I’m just saying that I was breaking the mold from the moment I came out of the gate. It should, therefore, have come as no surprise to anyone that a) I grew up feeling a bit of an outcast, and b) there was a good chance I’d follow through and be a nonconformist. From day one, it was clear that I wasn’t going to fulfill anyone’s expectations of me.

Nanny got it: she would later tell me that she knew I was going to be different from that first minute. But in her accepting eyes, “different” in a good way. I guess even then she could tell I wasn’t going to be your average pea in a pod.

I was born at East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital, directly off Whittier Boulevard—a seemingly never-ending street that today is crammed with markets and dollar stores but which was once a cruising capital for the young chavalos in their low-riders on the Eastside in the 60s, as immortalized by a seven-piece Chicano group called Thee Midniters. Not much came out of East L.A. back then beyond their 1965 hit “Whittier Boulevard,” which led to them being referred to as “the local Beatles,” though I doubt John Lennon and Paul McCartney sweated it too much.

At the baby shower a few weeks before my birth, my mom couldn’t stop dancing. She heard music and just had to start moving.

“Laura!!” everyone said—Laura was short for Aurora—“you’re going to have the baby if you’re not careful!”

“But I can’t stop dancing. I need to dance!” she told them.

And she danced and danced, and everyone laughed, for about two hours solid.

Mom says she knew I was going to be a handful then and there. It’s good to know that, even in the womb, I was injecting the Black Eyed Peas vibe, jumping around, rocking it, getting everyone on their feet. Mom said it was like that for the last three months of her pregnancy.

That’s why I like to think I started dancing even before my life truly began.

I also like to think that I gave Mom fair warning.

If you met me in the street and you knew nothing about the Black Eyed Peas and asked my name and where I was born, the reply could mislead you. I’d give you my birth name: Jaime Luis Gomez. I’d tell you where I first grew up: a Mexican-American community in East L.A. That would probably surprise you, because you might, as many do, mistake me for an Asian. If I told you the projects I grew up in and you knew the Eastside, I’d catch that look in your eye and I’d say, yeah, that’s right—the neighborhood nicknamed after a street gang called Dog Town. These are the stamps of my identity, about as informative as markings in a passport. They tell you nothing about who I am or what my story is, and what it further explains to me, looking back, is why I never felt I belonged from day one. Don’t get me wrong: no one is prouder than I am of my Mexican-American roots, but these are merely my roots and national identity. This information doesn’t completely define me.

Mr. Callaham, my sophomore English teacher, once said every story needs a good beginning, middle and end. I remember him saying that. It must have been one of the few times I was listening and not daydreaming my way through class.

The thing is, I didn’t much like the story that was laid out for me: the Latino who should understand his place in the world, stay loyal to the ’hood, get “a real job” and do the nine to five thing. I didn’t see a good beginning, middle or end in that.

What you’ve got to understand is that in my community, there was the story you were handed at birth—a carbon copy of the one issued to everyone else around you; a future of limitations that asks the dreamer that dares to be different: “What makes you think you’re so special?” I think that I was born with something of that Indian warrior spirit that Nanny talked about, providing me with a defiance that refused to respect pre-established boundaries. To me, you’ve got to be willing to smash your way out of any ice block that’s encased you. You’ve got to be willing to break out and be as original as you want to be, become the person you have the potential to be, as opposed to being the person others expect you should be. It is about ripping up the hopeless story and rewriting the dreamer’s script. Something innate within me knew this from being a boy.

There is a quote that me and my homie and best friend David Lara often remind each other of: “Those who abandoned their dreams will always discourage the dreams of others.”

I learned from an early age that few people tell you what is really possible, except for free spirits like Nanny. Because, if you become the one who does make it happen, then it reminds others of their own limitations and what they, maybe, could have done, but didn’t choose to. Find any tight community and then find the dreamer within it—and there’ll always be a gang of naysayers pissing on his or her parade.

That is why there is much more to me than where I come from. Because it is what was invisible—the determination, the belief, the perseverance—that shaped my story, and for those people who stonewalled me with doubt or never believed where I was headed, only one silent reply ran through my mind: Oh, you don’t think so? Okay, just watch me.

My mom, Aurora Sifuentes, and dad, Jimmy Gomez, met at a Mexican market on the Eastside. Mom was out shopping with Nanny, Aurora senior, when their paths crossed. It probably says a lot that I don’t know much more about the romantic part. Mom was a twenty-year-old student, securing qualifications that would ultimately get her a job as an official with the Los Angeles Unified School District, and Dad was a twenty-three-year-old mechanic. He’d previously had a relationship with a woman named Esther that produced a son—my half-brother Eddie who is four years older than me. I don’t know the details of that messy story other than Eddie ended up staying with Dad.

Mom and Dad fell in love, got married and she was pregnant with me at twenty-two, but the honeymoon period didn’t last long because, as Mom would tell me, there were two sides to my father. His better side was the kindhearted, affectionate gentleman. His bad side was the drinker, and, when this side kicked in, the good-looking charmer fell away and exposed the flawed man. He wasn’t a bad man, but alcohol sadly changed him. He would later get his act together, but not before it was too late as far as Mom was concerned.

Apparently, he performed a drunken dance called the “Pepe Stomp.” Basically, it involved nothing more technical than him stomping his feet on the spot, getting faster and faster. There was this one time when he lost his balance and fell backward into the playpen that was set up for my arrival. He crashed into it and was rolling around drunk. I wasn’t even born yet and Mom was already worried for my welfare. The final straw came during an argument when he picked up a bicycle and threw it at her when she was far into her pregnancy. The bike didn’t hit her, but almost flattened my half-brother Eddie who stood there wailing over his near-miss with this two-wheeled projectile. Mom was smart enough and strong enough to get out soon after.

That is why I don’t know my dad. He was at my birth and hovered around the edges for a bit, but he was one of those dads on paper and by blood, not by deed. He had next to nothing to do with raising me. Mom used to laugh that his favorite song was “Daddy’s Home” by Shep & The Limelites. Not bad for an absent dad.

I admire Mom for having the courage to make a new start and choose the life of a single parent. In many ways, it would have been easier to stay, but she took the tougher choice and a part-time job in a toy store near downtown L.A. She was no foreigner to hardship. In her childhood, home had once been a garage converted into a makeshift studio, shared with Uncle Louie and Nanny.

Nanny’s name was Aurora Acosta when she married Luis Sifuentes. I know nothing more about Granddad other than that he was always suited and booted, and he left her at an early stage of their marriage. I never have understood why I was named after the two most unreliable men in the lives of the two ladies who raised me: Jaime and Luis. Maybe I was intended to be the improved version of both men?

Mom always said I was handsome “like your father” but I personally thought he was on the ugly side, so I never thanked her for that. I had his nose, ears and name, but the similarities ended there. I’m tall, he is short. He is dark-skinned, I am light. I have ambition, he did not.

Nanny remained on amicable terms with Granddad, but, back i...

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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The book is very well written and while it was not an easy breezy read for me, I still loved every minute of it.
K. Carr
Overall however a very good autobiography, I've read a fair few and this one will be great if you're interested in the peas or the music industry in general.
Mahi Khan
It will give you the direction you seek in your life and it would question you about your willingness to keep your passion for music alive.
Siafu

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Fred Memner on February 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover
An amazing read. Honest, touching and inspiring. I strongly recommend this book. Taboo writes frankly about his rise, fall and recovery with quiet, humble and forceful dignity... I think that this book could and will save a life or two....and for that I say thank you from the bottom of my heart!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Book Lover on April 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
While I was reading this, I kept thinking of a SNL skit featuring "Taboo" and "Apl" loudly insisting "We are too in the Black-Eyed Peas!" I took this book out of the library because I wasn't going to spend my money on the autobiography of the least-known member of the group. But I'll tell you, this is a great book. From his humble beginnings as a Mexican-American in Dog Town (a culture I knew little about) to his rise, there was a lot of hard work. This success did not happen by accident -- Will.i.am started studying what makes a hit record from he was a teen and spends a lot of those early years networking and taking meetings in addition to perfecting his music and rapping. In fact he shows Taboo a trick for becoming a better rapper -- practice with a pencil between your teeth. Taboo also talks about the dark side of fame, his drug abuse, early fatherhood, and so on but not just for salacious reading but to show what he learned from his mistakes. Easy to read and you'll want to keep finding out what happens next. I liked it better than Keith Richards' "Life." Speaking of Keith, the Peas opened for the Rolling Stones on tour. While the Stones kept to themselves, Taboo did learn something from observing Keith. "He was reptile looking, with all that sagging skin, clearly ravaged by years of partying....I went back to my hotel room and examined every flaw, bag and shadow under my eyes and across my skin, wondering if my comparable apprenticeship in drugs and drink had caused any damage yet... Dude, you've got to stop, I said to myself in the mirror."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By smichal on March 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Before reading this book, all I knew is that Taboo was one of the Black Eyed Peas. I liked reading about Taboo learning to dance as a youngster in Dog Town and East LA and later the formation of the group.. and descriptions of his band mates and family members and meeting all kinds of celebrities and musicians. What bored & disappointed me - the drug use. It's definitely worth a read despite the slow start. I'd read more than one chapter at a time. (The first few chapters seem to be written by a different author than the rest of the book.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tamara J. Hufford-Wong on October 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When I read the reviews, it seems as most of us, "got it." However, I had to write to reverse the one comment - when I read what this review said, "Wait until it is on the bottom rack for $2.99)because it wasn't worth it. What a flippant comment from someone who "seriously", does not get it. Perhaps they are afraid to truly see what a struggle it is to come up from the depths of dispair, where shame and abuse run rampant, where day after day is met with slurs, dirty looks, and just plain meanness - a home life that constantly reinforces, "What makes you so special?" or "Who do you think YOU ARE? A place where dreams are dashed in moments played out over and over again. Thank God for his grandmother who believed in him every step of the way. His connection to his grandmother was his saving grace.

You can't take a life of drugs and drink and put it into one short, sweet chapter. You need to hear the words and breathe along with him of how hard it was to stop the madness, especially when you don't believe in yourself that you are NOT good enough, and that you DO NOT deserve this. That message takes years to overcome after it has played in your head constantly, from a very early age.

Frankly I was not expecting too much when I first began reading it and after the first few pages I found myself thinking, "Boy, this kid can write!" Yes he can, and with so much honesty, you go right along with him. I thank his grandmother for believing in her "Jimmy", because she was right all along, long after she had passed to Heaven. The love he has for his family, expecially his first born, and the lessons he learned along the way made this a remarkable book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Susan, the Peahead on June 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of BEP ever since I first heard Where is the Love? . Taboo has always been my favorite member. He seemed different from the other Peas, fresher maybe. I got a Kindle and noticed this book in the Suggestions for you box, so I decided to purchase it. I read the book quickly, in one big gulp. As I read the preface, I despaired. But I'm glad to say that the book is fresh and comedic, as well as inspiring. I live in a small town with it's own drug issues, and I felt I could relate to it. It felt like I was sitting in the same room, drinking soda as he brought me through the story of him as a B-Boying Latino 6 year old, to a boy shunned by his peers until he forms his own group, to a meager pizza & Pepsi salary, to the excitement of a $250 paycheck. I felt reborn as a peabody- and a person. My only regret is you can only give it 5 stars. Of course, I felt ashamed at certain parts. The part where he describes a house party where he pops an Ecstasy pill, I actually screamed. Of course, I could afford at him describing himself at his own expense : "Oh, ****, I am beautiful! Look at my hands!" When he describes the closeness he feels to his son Joshua, I think I cried. This whole book is something I'd recommend to anyone who was a BEP fan, anyone who's in a rough situation, anyone who likes to read- or anyone who has ever read a book. If you fall into one of these categories, buy it. I hope you enjoy it like I did.
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