There is so much promise in 2003’s hip-hop. There are so many records to buy, absorb, analyze and discuss. There are so many hip-hop artists who have now covered ground that many in years previous dared not venture. This sort of expression is laid out in 13 deliciously funkified tracks (and a hidden one) on Elephunk, the new LP from the Black Eyed Peas.

With Elephunk, the Black Eyed Peas have weaved together their knack for funk (obviously), playful hip-hop lyricism and infectious beats. While the hit record “Where is the Love” is a fine example of the Peas’ socially conscious intentions, the four-piece is careful not to eschew attention to life’s pleasures. These pleasures are given proper props in the opening track, “Hands Up.” With circus-sounding horns dancing around hand claps and a looped guitar riff in “Hands Up,” the Peas announce their pending domination of the party to come. A fella can roll one deep in his ride and just bump this number over and over again until the neighbors phone the authorities. It’s that good.

The good life is again addressed in the anthematic “Labor Day,” an ode to al-key-hol and consumption thereof in anticipation of a holiday. Against the backdrop of piano notes and Public Enemy’s “Baseheads” constant siren, the Black Eyed Peas discuss a very relevant “play hard” ideology here: “It’s time to get wasted and scope the whole place for girls with cute faces.” Indeed, as this record moves forward, even more spotlight is put on this subject and it shouldn’t be difficult for interested parties to raise their pints to “Let’s Get Retarded” and the sexual energy of “Latin Girls” and “Sexy.”

Back up a bit in the review here and check it out: four-piece. The Black Eyed Peas, hard at work on Elephunk since 2001, have gained a female force. Fergie is a welcome addition to the Peas, and she makes her presence known immediately as an integral part of the band’s carefully-placed harmonies. She shines quite a bit on the album’s fifth number, “Shut Up,” as she takes the reigns on introducing an R&B-flavored bout with relationship hassles.

As the majority of Elephunk‘s content concerns itself with getting “a little loopy on the ignorant fluid” (no qualms here), the hit that seems to be sweeping the nation is slotted at No. 13 on the album.

“Where is the Love” is a generous helping of rhythmic drums and pizzicato strings that flows into a shimmering chorus with careful assistance from Justin Timberlake. As some may contend that this song is possibly “too warm” of a transition from the rest of the party-heavy record, the Black Eyed Peas effectively tackle the brunt of racism, discrimination and terrorism with quickstepping biting rhymes. While the verse follows in the tradition of the golden greats such as PE and Boogie Down, the chorus is nothing less than inspired and beautiful. “Where is the Love” is hip-hop that can be recognized for its poignant and comprehensive content and is an example of an insight, like that of peers the Roots or Talib Kweli, completely necessary to further the genre. The Black Eyed Peas have managed to make a great record, celebrating life’s good things and questioning its bad.