NEW YORK —
Black Eyed Peas leader will.i.am said in a recent interview that Fergie is no longer in the group, but later said the songstress "will always be a Pea.''
Will.i.am's interview with Ahlan! magazine caused a frenzy online Thursday with the suggestion that Fergie was no longer a member of the pop group. A day later, will.i.am said in a statement: "Fergie is family and will always be a Pea. She is focused on her solo album which we fully support.''
In the interview, will.i.am said that "nobody is replacing Fergie'' and that the Black Eyed Peas are working on a new project. He said former Pussycat Doll leader Nicole Scherzinger would be featured on the project but didn't say how much involvement she would have (Scherzinger was offered a spot in the Peas before Fergie.)
Representatives for the Black Eyed Peas and Fergie didn't immediately reply to emails seeking clarity about Fergie's role in the group.
The Black Eyed Peas released its debut in 1998 as an eclectic hip-hop trio with will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo. Fergie first appeared on the group's third album, 2003's "Elephunk,'' helping them achieve mainstream success. The group went on to win Grammy Awards, sell millions of albums and top the pop charts with hits from "Where Is the Love'' to "Boom Boom Pow.''
Fergie also had major success with her 2006 solo debut, which was heavily produced by will.i.am. She announced last week that she left Universal Music Group, the longtime label behind her and the Black Eyed Peas, to launch her own record label called Dutchess Music through BMG.
She plans to release her sophomore album, "Double Dutchess,'' this year.