Will.i.am’s songs have gone multi-platinum, sold 33 million albums, and won seven Grammys. But while it was his work as the founding member and leader of the musical group The Black Eyed Peas that launched him into the stratosphere, his recognition within other arenas has also grown in step with his creative platform.

“When the machine is able to make its own beats—is that 10 years from now?” he once asked. “2031 is crazy, and if we don’t prepare ourselves for how complex it is around the corner, we’ll have a rude awakening,” he once predicted. Instead of getting left behind—in music or anything else—he jumped in, making technology and innovation centerpoints of his career. A futurist by nature, he serves on the World Economic Forum’s Fourth Industrial Revolution Advisory Committee and Global Artificial Intelligence Action Alliance, and has advised over two dozen brands on their forward-thinking tech and artificial intelligence strategies. He even invested in the development of Beats headphones. Meanwhile, the i.am Angel Foundation—a nonprofit he founded—offers over 10,000 disadvantaged kids in his home region of Southern California in-class and after-school education programs focused on the sciences, tech, math, and arts, and helps administer college scholarships.

Not every creator seeks to expand their reach beyond their art. But will.i.am’s desire to stay current, connect with his audiences, and be a plugged-in player on our world stage has been a defining feature in his career, and left an indelible mark on the music industry.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.