Allan Pineda Lindo was born in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines. His African-American father, an airman stationed at Clark Air Base, left the family shortly after his birth; his Filipino mother, Cristina Pineda, raised him and his six younger siblings as a single mother. As a child, Pineda would make an hour-long jeepney trip to and from his school and helped his family exist by farming sweet potatoes, corn, sugar cane and rice. The Pearl S. Buck Foundation, an organization that finds healthier living environments for young abandoned or orphaned American children, matched him with a sponsor named Joe Ben Hudgens, a lawyer, through a dollar-a-day program. He initially came to the United States at the age of 14 to treat nystagmus, an involuntary movement of the eyes. After a trip to Disneyland, Pineda expressed his interest in staying in the United States. It would take another three years for Hudgens to officially adopt him, but at fourteen he moved permanently to the United States to live with Hudgens.
In Los Angeles, Pineda attended John Marshall High School, where he met and befriended William Adams (stage name will.i.am), the nephew of Hudgens' roommate. Pineda's early musical influences were Stevie Wonder, The Eagles, The Beatles, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Leaders of the New School and the Filipino rock/folk group Asin. Pineda was introduced to hip hop by break dancing. "I would take the jeepney all the way to Angeles City, and that's how I got introduced to break dancing," he said. "I would see kids at the corner break-dancing and I'm like, 'I wanna do that.'" Pineda revealed to People Magazine in 2011 that he is legally blind in both of his eyes, suffering from nystagmus and has had this condition his entire career. His vision was corrected in 2012.
He has lost two of his siblings: his younger brother Arnel committed suicide (this is referenced in "The Apl Song" in the lines "I guess sometimes life's stresses get you down on your knees/Oh brother, wish I could have helped you out"). His youngest brother, Joven Pineda Deala, was murdered at the age of 22 in February 2009 in Porac, Pampanga.