Kelis has always been an artist who’s hard to pin down. Her influences, which range from R&B and soul to hip-hop and electronica, have led her to collaborate with artists ranging from mainstream acts like Calvin Harris and Enrique Iglesias to alternative legends Björk and Dave Sitek. Her career was pretty much founded upon a specific collaboration, though—her first two albums, Kaleidoscope and Wanderland, were produced by The Neptunes, aka the production duo of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo.
In a new interview with The Guardian in honor of the 20-year anniversary of her debut album, Kelis makes some claims about The Neptunes, noting some very bitter memories she holds associated with the duo. Of her first album, she says, “I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do.” She goes on to say she was “blatantly lied to and tricked tricked” by Williams, Hugo and their management, resulting in her receiving no money whatsoever for Kaleidoscope and Wanderland’s sales.
“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.’” The duo were two people Kelis considered close friends, and given the money she was making from touring, it was a while before Kelis noticed her losses. Asked if she would work with Williams again, she defers, telling The Guardian, “Ummm, at that point there’s having faith and there is also just stupidity.”
Her interviewer notes that Kelis does not sound angry. “To be honest with you, I think if it were not for my faith, I feel like that would probably be the case.” Just last year, Kelis sold her house and now manages a farm in Colombia for sustainable growth of coffee and tomatoes. “I’m absolutely fine,” she ends, smiling about her place in life. Given last year’s revelation that her first husband Nas had allegedly abused her, it’s easy to see how the music industry represented toxicity for the singer.
“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.” Kelis displays a resolute strength, and it’s easy to believe her about her newfound happiness.
For Kaleidoscope’s 20th anniversary, Kelis will be embarking on a tour. You can view the dates below. Kaleidoscope will also be receiving a reissue on Feb. 21.
Kelis Tour Dates:
03 – Budapest, Hungary @ Akvárium Klub
05 – Berlin, Germany @ Astra Kulturhaus
06 – København, Denmark @ Lille Vega
07 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
09 – Brussels, Belgium @ Ancienne Belgique
12 – Milan, Italy @ Fabrique
13 – Zurich, Switzerland @ Kaufleuten
16 – Manchester, U.K. @ Albert Hall
17 – London, U.K. @ Roundhouse
29 – London, U.K. @ South West Four 2020