Kelis is a force. Whether it’s through her music or her general aura, the 40-year-old artist has given me “badass” vibes from the very first time I saw her.
It’s been twenty years since her debut album, Kaleidoscope (1999), dropped and Kelis recently sat down with The Guardian to discuss her career, as well as her new “fine” life on a remote farm. Similar to the time she revealed the alleged abuse she suffered during her relationship with Nas, Kelis decided to speak on an aspect of her life she had previously kept private. In a very in-character choice by the no-nonsense artist, Kelis let the choppa spray.
“I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do,” she told The Guardian. Instead, she says, she was “blatantly lied to and tricked,” pointing specifically to “the Neptunes and their management and their lawyers and all that stuff.” As a result, she says she made nothing from sales of her first two albums, which were produced by the Neptunes. But she did not notice for a few years, because she was making money from touring, “and just the fact that I wasn’t poor felt like enough,” she says. “Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed it.’ I’m like: ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.’”
Those two albums were the aforementioned Kaleidoscope and 2003’s Tasty. In addition to the general shadiness of the music industry (hello, 360 Deal!), there are the added levels of being a black woman in the industry that should be considered here. As such, I can’t help but yell, “I hate [this] so much right now, I hate [this] so much right now, I hate [this] so much right now…. Ahhhhhh!”
As for today? Well, The Guardian goes on to add:
But she has seen Pharrell. A few years back, he was performing at an industry event and she was in the audience. “And he did that thing to me that he’s notorious for, which is making a nod from the stage [to someone in the audience], so it seems like there’s mutual respect, when in reality …” She throws her head back and laughs. “I’m like, OK, I’m not going to yell back: ‘You stole all my publishing!’ So you end up nodding back and everyone thinks everything’s great. Like, whatever.”
Would she work with him again? She looks at me as if I have asked if she would jump into a shark tank: “Ummm, at that point there’s having faith and there is also just stupidity.”
“Well, I’m a very private person, and whether it’s the stuff with the Neptunes and being assaulted from a business perspective, to then being assaulted in the home, I fought so hard to have my own voice, even with the umbrella of these men looming over what I was trying to do. I’m not broken. But I don’t feel like protecting the sanctity of the black man any more,” Kelis concluded.
The Guardian previously noted Williams and Hugo did not respond to several requests for comment. The Root has made a separate request to Pharrell Williams for comment.