As he debuted his new song "Reach for the Stars" on Tuesday from the Curiosity rover on Mars, will.i.am and his mother reflected on his journey from growing up in a rough neighborhood to debuting one of his singles from another planet.
"I was thinking about my childhood and all the things my mom did to get me to where I am," the 37-year-old musician said of watching his single being beamed down from Mars. "Here we are. I never would have thought while we were living in the projects that me and my mom would be at NASA while a song gets beamed back [from space]."
Despite being raised in an impoverished community, will.i.am's mother, Debra, encouraged his education and sent him to an esteemed magnet school in Brentwood, California.
"Along the same path as him," she said of her thoughts during the event. "[I was thinking about] where he started from, the steps that he took, [and] the struggles that he's had that [have] led him to here."
The beaming of "Reach for the Stars" from the Red Planet is part of will.i.am's ongoing push to encourage STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, which he believes is an effective way to empower impoverished areas like his old neighborhood.
"Aside from it being cool and [being] just blessed and honored and overwhelmed, it's [about] why it's being beamed back from Mars," he stated. "That's the important thing: to inspire kids to take an interest in STEM, and taking an interest in STEM to create STEAM, the marriage of [STEM and art]."
Although many celebrities are involved in some form of philanthropy, will.i.am is among the elite celebrity philanthropists who take a hands-on approach to charity work and helping the community. As he notes, his personal accolades don't mean as much to him as giving back to his neighborhood.
"Now, here I am after I've accomplished all the things that music had to offer. The Grammys was a hurdle, the Super Bowl was a hurdle, and you jump those hurdles," said the seven-time Grammy winner, who is on the brink of releasing his fourth studio album, entitled #willpower. "Those things...are great for you, great ego-booster, but it doesn't change your neighborhood...Doing this can change your neighborhood."
Watch the full video above for more from will.i.am's song being beamed from Mars.