It only took her ONE song, smash hit single "Caught Out There" from her debut "Kaleidoscope", for Kelis to be recognized as a trendsetting artist at only age 19. This Harlem native is one of today's most creative and risk-taking artists, constantly changing styles and reinventing herself, whether music wise or fashion wise. Kelis released her fourth album "Kelis Was Here" in August 2006, and I've had the privilegde to interview her. She talked about everything, her new album "Kelis Was Here", fashion, the industry, Nas, and more. ENJOY!
Special thanks to J Erving from Erving Wonder / Sanctuary Urban Management for making this possible.
How did you come up with "Kelis Was Here"?
I have so many reasons why I came up with "Kelis Was Here". I feel proud. I got it out. It's honest, and it's done. lol. I can't promise you genius but I'll be as creative as I am at this time. I got married. I took my time; I was in NO rush. My job is to bring things you don't know you like yet. There's a difference between performers and artists. I'm not the greatest singer in the world. I already know that. But I know I'm an innovator. I always say the greatest artists in the world are not the most talented people, they're the ones compelled to bring you something different because they don't know what else to do. They're the painters who paint not because they can make money but because they cannot stop. It's cliche, and I don't even want to take myself seriously, but at the end of the day, if I'm not moving you in some way, what's my point? "Kelis Was Here"? It's the end of an era. I've influenced people enough with what I'm doing now.
I've heard a lot of your fans say that they didn't understand why you and the Neptunes didn't work together on this project. Why was it necessary for you to seperate from them?
I feel there comes a point in your career when you have to venture off and do different things. There's no growth in an artist if you don't take risk. That's why I didn't work with the Neptunes on this album.
This is your 4th album, and people still embrace you much more overseas, you're a superstar over there. Why do you think you have so much more success in Europe (and Japan) than in the USA?
I feel that I'm a more popular artist overseas because they appreciate music more than people in the U.S. I spend all my time in Europe so that could be a reason too.
This little controversy about your song "F*ck Them B*tches", is it true that the label released that track without your consent?
Aww Shit! lol. I think we'll pass on that for now.
There's this song you did with Raphael Saadiq called "Circus" discribing the music industry as crooked and shady, and artists being nothing but puppets. Why do you think there's almost no room for creativity and individuality in this business anymore? What causes that?
"Circus" is one of my favorite songs. I mean there's room for creativity when you pursue it. Some people get in the business and let the business do them. You've got to stand up for yourself. If you demand respect from the label they will respect your artistry. It's a struggle to find that though on a label, especially a major label. That's why you've got to find a label that works for you.
What is your favorite track off of "Kelis Was Here" and why?
My fave songs right now would have to be "Goodbyes", "Lil star", "Aww shit", "Trilogy", "Living Proof", and "Appreciate Me". Those songs are so HOT right now. "Blindfold Me" and "I Don't Think So" have so much energy and I love them too. The album is great from start to finish and I love it. I can't forget about "Handful" either.
We see more and more famous artists going independent, like Prince, Shanice or Tamia. Is that something that you consider doing in the future?
I'm happy where I am now. I won't knock the independent label thing, who knows what may happen in the future. If things with my label ever falls off it might be considered. Who knows.
Who haven't you worked with that you would love to work with one day?
I dont know who I'd work with right now, but whoever it is, I will work with.
There are so many stories about women having to fit certain standards in the music industry to get a deal. How did the risk-taking, trendsetting and independent thinking woman that you are manage to impose her ideas and do things her way in this business, especially as an artist from a major label?
I was my damn self and there was nothing anyone could say. I was 19 when I came out and I knew what I wanted to do. I rocked a wild curly rainbow colored head. I've been a trendsetter since I was a little girl. I was about 12. I had a perm like we all did. My hair started to break off. It was a disaster. I looked in the mirror and stopped crying. I said forget it. No matter what I do, I don't fit in - not with the white girls and not with the black girls from Chauncey and Rashida from Uptown. So I shaved my hair off and got teased mercilessly. But I felt better. I was like, I can deal with this. Ever since then I didn't care what anyone else thought.
Your style is so fly and original, from your clothes to your hairstyles, how do you find those ideas? What inspires you?
My inspiration for my clothes and hairstyles is myself. I wake up and do what I feel. I don't give a damn what these white chicks are wearing in the magazines. They're not setting trends. I've ALWAYS been a trendsetter, and my mom is a bad chick to this day. So I don't need to see "what's happening". I know what I like, and I know what I don't like. I'm going to put it together how I like.
What artists you think bring something interesting to the music scene right now?
Right now I'm feeling artist who are doing something that means something. My husband's record is the best rap album out right now! Ciara's record is one of my favorites too! And I just heard my best friend Ashanti's new song and that's hot!
You and Nas are one of Today's Hottest Hip Hop couples. How can the both of you maintain a strong and private relationship when you're so famous?
My biggest goal with my husband is just to love him. I trust him with my life. It's weird because we're soooo different, but at the same time we're both known for standing out on a ledge and saying what we believe and not fitting in. MTV came to us wanting to do a reality series but we declined. We knew that the show would be too much and our business would be out and that can ruin a relationship.
Being Nas' wife, how do you feel about Carmen Bryan's new book?
If she can make money from it, thank GOD. That would be great. lol.
Is it true that you are about to launch a clothing line and a cook book?
Yes, my cookbook is coming out with recipes that I actually cook. And yes I'm in the works of my own clothing line which will be for women and we're working on men right now. Me and my best friend Ashanti are also trying to make a high-heel line together that we're going to call KeShany Heels.
Would you like to try acting someday?
I went to LaGuardia, the fame school. I was a theater major. I really wanted to act. It was where I told myself I can do it. It was where I found out I was good at something other than music. I fit in there, so yes, I would LOVE to act. I'm looking over some scripts now.
What advice would you give to young artists trying to get into this business?
Be yourself and do what you want to do. Don't be naive this industry can eat you up-----like that.
Is there anything else that you'd like to tell your fans?
Go buy the album if you don't already have it and all the other Kelis shit. lol. Naw, naw, just support me! And to the haters......FUCK THEM BITCHES!
I LOVE HER! GET 'EM, 'Lis!