This song is about the state of post 9/11 world, which all but calls for US withdrawal from Iraq. Group member Ron Fair started writing it late in 2001, and another member, will.i.am, added the socially conscious lyrics.
This was co-written by Justin Timberlake, who also sang on the track. He came up the chorus after hearing the song on the phone.
The group talked about the initial inspiration for this song when they made a new version 13 years later:
Taboo: "I just remember the day of 9/11, Will comes in running to the room and he says, 'Yo! We're being attacked."
apl.de.ap: "And then we saw the second plane and then reality sets in."
will.i.am: "My grandma said a prayer, and said that we shouldn't stay at home afraid when you're being called on to do as much healing as you can with the gift that was given to us."
Taboo: "There was a lot of separatism, racism, and we felt like the question we had been asking was like, 'Yo, where's the love?'"
The song took a long time to develop. By the time they recorded the version on the Elephunk, The Black Eyed Peas added a string section and recorded vocals by their new member: a female singer named Fergie. They had also changed their sound to appeal to a wider audience.
Justin Timberlake was not listed as a featured singer on this and did not appear in the video. His record company wanted to keep his contribution to this low-key because they didn't want it to interfere with his album Justified.
This song got lots of love in the UK, where it was #1 for six weeks, remarkable since the band was little-known in Britain. It was the longest-serving British #1 in five years and the best selling record of 2003 in the UK.
The group performed this on the Grammy Awards, where it was nominated for Record of the Year but lost to "Clocks
" by Coldplay. The ceremony took place February 8, 2004, exactly one week after Justin Timberlake tore off a piece of Janet Jackson's outfit during the Super Bowl halftime show to reveal her bare breast. Jackson was pilloried and uninvited to the Grammy Awards, but Timberlake got to perform on the show and collect two awards. On stage, they kept him far away from Fergie at all times.
The Black Eyed Peas released a new version of the song on August 31, 2016. Will.i.am said the remake was inspired by tragic events that were happening throughout the world.
"I remember when the attack in Paris happened, people would say 'We need 'Where Is The Love?' again.' And then Belgium happened, and then Turkey, and then Orlando, and then Philando, and then Alton before him, and then Dallas," he said. "Everyone was calling on us, like, we need that song again."
The Peas roped in some of their famous friends for the reworking including Justin Timberlake, Usher, Jamie Foxx, The Game, Mary J. Blige, Jessie J, Jessica Szohr, Nicole Scherzinger, Diddy, DJ Khaled, Andra Day, Tori Kelly, Ty Dolla $ign, Jaden Smith and ASAP Rocky.
Proceeds from the new version benefit several charities including the Alton Sterling Fund, Dallas Police Officers, the Philando Castile Fund and will.i.am's non-profit i.am.angel Foundation, which helps communities in crisis.
The video for the remake features cameos from several additional stars including Kendall Jenner, Quincy Jones, Vanessa Hudgens and Wiz Khalifa. Dallas Police Chief David O Brown and Sandra Sterling, the aunt who raised the late Alton Sterling, also make appearances.
On the remix, DJ Khaled changes his trademark "They don't want you to win" line during his contribution on the bridge into "They don't want us to love." Will.i.am told Genius
"I placed it over the a cappella break where we have Justin Timberlake, Nicole Scherzinger and Usher, and it fit perfectly over that. He's been saying 'They don't want you to win' for a long time and that line in particular makes you question—who the f--- are 'they' anyway. Those are haters. When he says 'They don't want us to love' in this song it's like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, who are 'they'?' They don't want us to have the values of humanity, they don't want us to unite. A lot of times people laugh at that DJ Khaled line, but here it's like, 'Pay attention, that's heavy.'"
The Game wrote his verse in 20 minutes. "Everyone is into social activism when they heart things and retweet things, but we need more from people," will.i.am. commented. "Retweeting is great and liking things is awesome, but let's do more together. Game's verse summed up what's going on in America's inner cities and what's going on in people's frame of mind on social media activism."
The lyrics, "The Bloods, the Crips and the KKK" are a reference to two Los Angeles-based gangs and the Ku Klux Klan hate group.
The male members of Black Eyed Peas performed this at the One Love Manchester concert
on June 4, 2017, with Ariana Grande filling in for Fergie. The concert, viewed by over 11 million in Britain, raised over $3 million for the victims of the suicide bombing at Grande's May 22 concert at the Manchester Arena. The day after the show, "Where Is The Love?" went to #7 on the iTunes chart.