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Kelis

Kelis

Kelis
@ the Love Supreme Jazz Festival
3 July 2016

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Biography

Born Kelis (kuh-LEESE) Rogers in New York on August 21, 1979, the singer grew up as the youngest of four sisters in the Harlem neighborhood on Manhattan Island. Her three sisters all became physicians. Her African-American father, Kenneth G. Rogers, was a veteran jazz musician; her mother Eveliss, who is of Puerto Rican and Chinese background, worked in the fashion industry. Kelis’s parents were supportive of the interest in music she showed as early as age two. She began studying the violin, continuing for 14 years, and soon she was singing in the choir of the family’s Pentecostal church, where her father sometimes preached. Eveliss Rogers, who hand-made unique, colourful outfits for her daughters also influenced Kelis, who would be known for daring, arresting outfits and hair styles.

When she was 14, Kelis was admitted to New York’s Fiorello LaGuardia High School for Music & Art and Performing Arts - a prestigious magnet school that served as the model for the institution depicted in the movie ‘Fame.’ She learned to play the saxophone and won a spot in the Girls Choir of Harlem. R&B and hip-hop talent spotters were already paying attention to Kelis while she was still in high school, especially after she and two friends formed a group called BLU (Black Ladies United). The creative teenager was restless at home, however, and when she was 16 she moved out and got her own apartment.

Faced with the necessity of making a living, Kelis took a variety of jobs and had little time to think about music. After she graduated from high school in 1997, however, she landed a backup vocal slot on a single called Fairytalz released by former Wu Tang Clan member RZA (under the name Gravediggaz). Her name spread among New York industry people, and she began working with the team of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, known as the Neptunes. Kelis was signed to the Virgin label in 1998.

Kelis's debut album, “Kaleidoscope,” showing the singer with orange hair and covered in body paints, appeared in 1999 and took off with the release of the single “Caught Out There.” The song depicted a woman who is angry after discovering her boyfriend’s infidelity. “I hate you so much right now!” Kelis screams over a catchy Neptunes beat. The song was accompanied by a video in which Kelis beats up a man, threatens to cut off him off from life support in the emergency room of a hospital, and then leads a group of women in bathrobes in a nocturnal protest march as they intone the song’s “I hate you” chorus. Directed by video creator Hype Williams, the video sprang from a concept envisioned by Kelis.

In 2001 Kelis’s career hit a roadblock when the Virgin label refused to release her sophomore album, “Wanderland,” in the United States, blaming poor overseas sales. Noted Michael Endelman of Entertainment Weekly: “Virgin’s trepidation is understandable; the album has an uneven and downbeat vibe - likely influenced by Kelis’ rumored romance with Pharrell Williams, which was reportedly falling apart during the recording sessions.” Despite a busy schedule of guest appearances on recordings and the tours of other artists - she had opening slots for the legendary rock band U2 and biracial rocker Lenny Kravitz – Kelis’s career was in danger in the fast-moving world of urban music, where a lag of a few years might cause an artist to be nearly forgotten.

Things turned around for Kelis on the personal front in 2002, when she met rapper Nas (Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones) at a party thrown by hip-hop kingpin Sean P. Diddy" Combs. “He's the love of my life,” Kelis told Matt Diehl of Interview. "We met, and I was just like, ‘Hallelujah!’ It was that sort of divine cliché moment: he shook my hand, and we’ve been together ever since.” The two married in Atlanta in January of 2005 and made plans to record an album of old-school R&B together.

Kelis parted ways with Virgin and took advantage of her new creative freedom, booking studio time at her own expense to work on new material. A roster of A-list producers, including Andre 3000 of OutKast, Dallas Austin, and Raphael Saadiq, offered or volunteered their services. By the time she signed with the Arista label, Kelis had most of the album that would become “Tasty” finished.

The most commercially impressive result of Kelis’s leisurely approach was “Milkshake.” Composed and produced by the Neptunes (along with four other tracks on Tasty), it drew its appeal partly from the ambiguity of its lyrics.

Opening for Britney Spears on Spears's Onyx Hotel tour of 2004, Kelis once again took her time coming up with new material. The early months of her marriage to Nas gave her a well-deserved break at the beginning of 2005, and she began working on writing a cookbook and creating a fashion line. The new album, at first called “The Puppeteer” and then “Kelis Was Here,” was slated for release on the Jive label in June of 2006, but was pushed back to July and then August. A variety of producers, including Saadiq, Cee-Lo, and Scott Storch, again made contributions.
Despite the delay, Kelis, now sporting a new short haircut, was on the radio and in the news in July of 2006 with a rising single, “Bossy” (featuring rapper Too Short), and a tour that took her across the European continent.

Kelis

Kelis Kelis

Kelis

Kelis

Kelis

Kelis

Kelis

Kelis

Kelis

Kelis

Kelis


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