Will.i.am turned down his first welfare cheque because he wanted to find another way to live.

The Black Eyed Peas front man was stood in line waiting for his first payment aged just 20 when he had an epiphany and turned to his mother and girlfriend.

He told them: "Nah, this ain't right. This ain't how it's supposed to be. Let's go home."

And when his girlfriend asked what they would do for cash, he told her: "Don't worry about it, baby. It's going to be all right."

Now aged 37, he recalls how he and band mates Taboo and apl.de.ap took work wherever they could get it whilst waiting for their big break.

He told the Daily Mirror: "Apl was homeless pretty much, Taboo was working at Disneyland picking up horses**t and I was always trying to work in someone's studio."

But with 65 million albums sold worldwide, he has managed to achieve his dream of buying a home for mother Debra outside the deprived Los Angeles district of Boyle Heights where he grew up -- and hopes his success inspires others.

He said: "I told my mom, 'One day I'm going to buy you a house'. She said, 'Don't you be making promises you can't keep'.

"Hopefully me moving the whole family out is an inspiration to new young ones that they can do even better than that."