Kelis Rogers (//; born August 21, 1979) better known mononymously as Kelis, is an American singer-songwriter and certified chef. Kelis achieved moderate international success with her 1999 debut album, Kaleidoscope, but left her label Virgin Records after its follow-up, Wanderland (2001), received little sales attention and no U.S. release. Her third album, 2003's Tasty, earned the singer commercial prominence and produced the hit single "Milkshake", her most well-known song. Kelis Was Here (2006), her fourth album, was the subject of further label disputes and she took a hiatus from music after its release, during which she trained at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. She released the album Flesh Tone in 2010 and her sixth, Food, independently in 2014.
Kelis has been recognised at the Brit Awards, Q Awards, NME Awards, and Grammy Awards ceremonies. Her musical output, both as a lead and featured artist, encompasses various genres—she has collaborated with R&B and hip hop acts including Busta Rhymes and Clipse, electronic and dance producers such as Calvin Harris, Timo Maas, and Richard X, pop and rock acts Enrique Iglesias and No Doubt, and indie/alternative musicians including Björk and Dave Sitek. She has sold six million records worldwide and has had particular success in the United Kingdom, with ten of her singles reaching the UK Singles Chart top ten.
Kelis Rogers was born and raised in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Her first name is a portmanteau of her father's name, Kenneth (1944–2000), and her mother's name, Eveliss. Her father Kenneth was an African American jazz musician and Pentecostal minister, and was formerly a professor at Wesleyan University. Her mother Eveliss is a Puerto Rican and Chinese fashion designer who inspired Kelis to pursue her singing career. She has three sisters, Kelis being the third born of the four girls.
As a child, Kelis sang in church choirs and played violin, piano, and saxophone while attending Manhattan Country School, a private school. At the age of 13, Kelis shaved off all of her hair. In an interview with Charlotte Roche, Kelis says she was kicked out of her parents' house at the age of sixteen for bad behavior, stating that she would sometimes clash with her mother, but continued her education at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, where she formed the R&B trio BLU (Black Ladies United). Kelis was also a bartender and a sales associate at a clothing store before graduating high school. Afterwards, a friend introduced Kelis to The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo); they formed a strong bond, and, with their support, she landed a record deal with Virgin Records.
1998–2002: Kaleidoscope and Wanderland
Kelis began recording her debut album, Kaleidoscope, in mid-1998 and was finished within a year. Produced by The Neptunes and released by Virgin Records in 1999, the album peaked at number 144 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and reached the top five on the Top Heatseekers chart. As of 2006, the album had sold 249,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its lead and most notable single, "Caught Out There", became a top ten Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs hit and peaked at number 54 on the Billboard Hot 100. During this time, Kelis featured on Ol' Dirty Bastard's U.S. top 40 single "Got Your Money".
The album performed better in Europe, where "Caught out There" was a moderate hit and reached the top five on the UK Singles Chart. A second single, "Good Stuff" (featuring Terrar of Clipse), reached number 19; the third, "Get Along with You", was less successful, reaching number 51. The British Phonographic Industry certified Kaleidoscope gold for sales of 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 43 on the UK Albums Chart. In 2001, Kelis won the BRIT Award for International Breakthrough Act and the NME Award for Best R&B/Soul Act, before joining Moby and U2 on their Area:One and Elevation tours, respectively. Kelis and the Neptunes' output at this time was heralded as foreshadowing an innovation in contemporary R&B, but she later said, "I was never an R&B artist. People coined me one but that's because, especially if you're in the States, if you're black and you sing, then you're R&B". Her colorful style in both clothing and hair received considerable attention.
Kelis's second album, Wanderland, was released in 2001 in Europe, Asia, and Latin America, but did not receive a North American release. According to Kelis, her U.S. record company at the time, Virgin, had laid off those that worked on Kaleidoscope; their replacements did not understand or believe in Wanderland, which led her to leave the label around the time of the album's European release. A commercial failure, Wanderland peaked at number 78 in the UK, although its sole single release, "Young, Fresh n' New", was a top forty entry on the UK Singles Chart. The album, which was produced in its entirety by the Neptunes and features collaborations with members of Clipse and No Doubt, was well received by publications such as The Guardian and NME.
In 2002, Kelis recorded "So Be It" for the Red Hot Organization's Fela Kuti tribute CD, Red Hot and Riot, from which all proceeds were donated to AIDS awareness charities. The same year, she had a top 20 US club hit with a remix of "Young, Fresh 'n' New" remix produced by Timo Maas, who subsequently featured Kelis on his single "Help Me".
In 2003, Kelis achieved a second top ten hit in the UK as a featured artist on Richard X's "Finest Dreams", a reworking of the S.O.S. Band's 1986 single "The Finest". She found mainstream success in the U.S. later that year, with her Hot Dance Club Play number-one, Billboard Hot 100 top three single, "Milkshake"; this helped to propel her third album, Tasty, to gold status in the U.S., where it peaked at number 27 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 533,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. "Milkshake" also went gold, selling over 500,000 copies, and earned Kelis a Grammy Award nomination in 2004 for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Although the Neptunes contributed several tracks to Tasty—the album was released by their label Star Trak Entertainment, a joint venture with Arista Records—Kelis began collaborating with other producers, such as Dallas Austin, André 3000, Rockwilder, and Raphael Saadiq. She stated in an interview: "I felt like I had a lot to prove with this album. People had started messing with me along the lines of 'Is she REALLY any good without The Neptunes?—which I knew was ridiculous. And so I was like 'I'll take that challenge'."
The single and album immediately found success in Europe. According to the BPI, Tasty went platinum in the United Kingdom, selling over 300,000 copies, and "Milkshake" went silver, selling over 200,000 units. The album's second single, the Dallas Austin-produced "Trick Me", went to the top ten in many European countries during mid-2004; it did not, however, garner success in the U.S. in the absence of promotion from Jive Records, the label Kelis had been transferred to after Arista Records folded at the time of Tasty's release. Kelis's success grew in Australia, where Tasty went gold with over 35,000 copies sold, and where "Milkshake" and "Trick Me" went platinum (selling over 70,000 copies each). Kelis followed the success of the third Tasty single, "Millionaire" (featuring André 3000), with the Rockwilder-produced, sexually suggestive track "In Public" (featuring Nas), which reached number 17 on the UK chart without the support of a music video.
"Not in Love", Kelis's collaboration with Enrique Iglesias from his 2003 album 7, was released as a single the following year, reaching the UK top five. Although the single failed to chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, it topped the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart. Also in 2004, Kelis collaborated with Björk on a remix of the latter's track "Oceania" (from Björk's album Medúlla), which appeared as a B-side to the Björk album's second single, "Who Is It". Kelis toured as the opening act for fellow Jive artist Britney Spears's The Onyx Hotel Tour. In 2005, she was featured on the soundtrack to the film Just Like Heaven with a cover version of The Pretenders' "Brass in Pocket" (1979),
2006–08: Kelis Was Here
Kelis contributed a track titled "80's Joint" to the soundtrack of the 2006 dance film Step Up. She collaborated with Busta Rhymes and will.i.am on the track "I Love My Bitch", the second single from Rhymes's 2006 album The Big Bang. This was the second time Kelis teamed up with Rhymes, the first being his 2001 song "What It Is".
Kelis's fourth studio album, Kelis Was Here, was released in August 2006, and debuted and peaked at number ten on the Billboard 200. Despite the career-high debut, the album has sold only 157,000 copies in the United States as of 2007, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its lead single, "Bossy" (featuring Too Short), achieved frequent airplay on urban radio and was a moderate hit in the U.S., peaking at number 16. "Bossy" went multi-platinum as a mobile phone ringtone, according to the RIAA. The album includes production credits by Scott Storch, Cee-Lo Green (from the Gnarls Barkley fame), Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Raphael Saadiq, will.i.am, Knobody, Polow da Don, Damon Elliott, Cool and Dre, Sean Garrett, and Bangladesh. Unlike on Kelis's previous albums, the production duo The Neptunes are not featured at all; Kelis was quoted as saying that it was "very important to me", but also that it was purely a creative decision and that she has no ill will toward Williams or Hugo. Kelis Was Here was nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album at the 2007 Grammy Awards.
The second single released from the album by her American label, Jive, was a collaboration with Nas, "Blindfold Me". The song missed the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number 91 on the R&B chart. Her European label, Virgin, instead released the Cee-Lo-featuring "Lil Star", which was another hit for Kelis in the United Kingdom, peaking at number three. In the UK, Kelis Was Here charted at number 41 and has sold 60,000 copies, earning a silver certification from the BPI. In Australia, the album reached number 96 on the ARIA Albums Chart and the track "I Don't Think So" was used in promotion for the 2008 season of the reality series Big Brother Australia. The song subsequently peaked at number 27 on the ARIA chart and became a top ten urban hit. During mid 2007, Kelis toured in Europe, appearing in numerous festivals across the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, such as Wireless, Rise and Gurtenfestival. Ford chose Kelis to help advertise the 2007 Ford Edge, and she recorded a theme song for the commercial, entitled "Push It to the Edge", with help from producer Scott Storch.
According to Kelis, she received no support from Jive Records for Kelis Was Here, and the label dropped her in late 2007. Her manager at the time said that the singer was working with Cee-Lo Green on an alternative dance album and would be shopping a pop album produced by songwriter Guy Chambers, who co-wrote hits such as Robbie Williams's "Angels". Scottish electronica producer Calvin Harris was also said to be collaborating with her. Kelis later said of this period, "I was like, 'I will never put out another record again, I hate this business, I hate all these people.' I was in this race that I didn't even realise that I was in. I woke up and ten years had passed. That was never my plan". She subsequently took a hiatus from music.
After Kelis left Jive, the label released a fourteen-track greatest hits album entitled The Hits in March 2008. The album does not contain any previously unreleased songs; Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Your Money", N.E.R.D's "Truth or Dare", and Richard X's "Finest Dreams" appear on the album alongside every charted Kelis single to that date, with the exception of "Blindfold Me".
2009–10: Flesh Tone
In 2009, Kelis announced that she was finishing her fifth studio album, to be released in 2010 under Interscope Records via the will.i.am Music Group. Kelis worked with various producers and contributors on the album, titled Flesh Tone, including Ammo, Jean Baptiste, Benny Benassi, Burns, Diplo, Boys Noize, Free School, DJ Switch, will.i.am, and David Guetta. The album marked Kelis' transition into dance and pop music, away from her previous R&B-based material. Coinciding with her change in musical direction, Kelis appeared on Basement Jaxx's 2009 album Scars on the title track, on Benassi's 2010 single "Spaceship" with apl.de.ap and Jean Baptiste, and on the Crookers single "No Security" from their debut album Tons of Friends.
The first single from Flesh Tone, "Acapella" (produced by David Guetta), debuted in the top five on the UK Singles Chart and reached number one on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Songs and the UK Dance Chart. Flesh Tone was released in May 2010 in Europe and Asia, and in July in the U.S., where it peaked at number 48 on the Billboard 200 and at number five on the Dance/Electronic Albums. The second single, "4th of July (Fireworks)", was accompanied by a video co-directed by Kelis herself (with John "Rankin" Waddell and Nicole Ehrlich), and became a club hit in America and Britain. Subsequent singles "Scream" and "Brave" made minimal chart impact.
During mid-2010, Kelis embarked on her first U.S. tour, titled All Hearts with Robyn, amid a selection of club, festival and solo dates that continued through 2011–these included Glastonbury, The Big Chill, Good Vibrations and Lovebox. Kelis appears on the Mark Ronson-produced track "The Man Who Stole a Leopard" from the 2010 Duran Duran release All You Need Is Now, and co-wrote the song "Waiting" for British pop singer Cheryl Cole's Messy Little Raindrops.
Kelis collaborated with Scottish producer Calvin Harris on the 2011 single "Bounce", the lead single from Harris' third studio album, 18 Months. "Bounce" debuted at number two on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Kelis's tenth UK top ten single.
In a 2011 interview, Kelis said that her sixth studio album would be finished "in the next few weeks". According to Kelis's management firm at the time, Three Six Zero Group, the album was to feature production from Skream, BURNS, Tom Neville, Dan Black, and Caspa. She said of the album, "I've been on a real 1990s vibe with this record, it's kind of trip-hoppish [...] it's more electro, it's a little deeper and darker". The Skream-produced single "Distance" received its UK radio premiere in mid 2012, although the rest of the material from these recording sessions remains unreleased. Kelis was featured on Dan Black's single "Hearts" and Skream's "Copy Cat" (both 2013), the latter of which led to a dispute after Kelis alleged that Skream refused to have her appear in the music video.
In 2013, following reports that Kelis had been working with producer Dave Sitek, it was announced that she had signed to Sitek's own record label Federal Prism and was going to release two albums. A new single, "Jerk Ribs" premiered online the same month. In late 2013, it was announced that Kelis had signed to British independent label Ninja Tune for the release of the album, titled Food, in April 2014. Food is produced entirely by Sitek and contains influences of soul, funk, gospel, and Afrobeat—Kelis said of the album, "You know, those records in your life that your parents played and they resonate with who you are? They make you nostalgic. I wanted to find out how to get that feeling." Food entered the UK Albums Chart at number 20, becoming Kelis's second highest peaking album after Tasty in 2004. In the U.S., it reached number 73 on the Billboard 200.
Kelis's performance at London's Somerset House was recorded and released as an album, Live in London, in November 2014. The following month she was featured on house producer Breach's single "The Key", a reworking of his remix of Kelis's Food track "Rumble". In 2015, Kelis featured on veteran disco producer Giorgio Moroder's album Déjà Vu, singing on the track "Back and Forth".
Between 2006 and 2010, Kelis trained part-time as a saucier, eventually graduating from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. During 2006, Kelis wrote a cookbook with Lauren Pesavento and designed her own line of fashion accessories, called Cake. In 2007, she was in talks to host a Project Runway-esque show for VH1 and auditioned for various film and TV roles.
In 2013, Kelis debuted her sauce line, "Feast", at the Beverly Hills Food & Wine Festival. The line went on general sale in 2015 under the new name of "Bounty & Full". Kelis has described sauce as "what accessories are to a woman’s outfit. Sauce defines where the dish is from and who’s making it [...] I think everything is better smothered, poured, or dipped." In 2014, the Cooking Channel aired a cooking TV series starring Kelis, Saucy and Sweet, and the same year she set up a food truck to cook for attendees of the American music festival SXSW. Her first cookbook, My Life on a Plate, was released on September 28, 2015; Kelis describes it as "an exploration of tastes and cultures, and my experience as a chef, musician, mother and wife".
Nasir Jones and Kelis met at an MTV Video Music Awards party in 2002; they dated for one year before becoming engaged in 2004, and marrying in January 2005. In April 2009 she filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. She was seven months pregnant at the time. On July 22, 2009, Kelis gave birth to a son named Knight. The birth was announced by Nas via an online video. The same month, a judge in New York City ordered Nas to pay Kelis $55,000 per month in child and spousal support. The couple's divorce was finalized in May 2010. Kelis gave birth to a son, Shepherd, in November 2015. She has not revealed his father's identity.
In March 2007, Kelis was detained by police in Miami Beach, Florida, and charged with disorderly conduct. The arrest report said the officers were posing as prostitutes along a main avenue in the South Beach nightclub district when Kelis started screaming racial profanities at them. She was sent to Miami-Dade County Jail, and was later released on a $1,500 bond. In September 2008, Kelis was acquitted on charges of resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct stemming back to the 2007 arrest. A spokesman for Kelis further commented that the artist would still be moving forward with a lawsuit against the Miami Beach Police, claiming unlawful arrest and the violation of her civil rights.
|2003||Volcano High||Song (voiceover)||MTV dub TV movie|
|2004||Saturday Night Live||Musical Guest (Herself)||"Drew Barrymore/Kelis" (Season 29, Episode 12)|
|2007||Me and Mr. Jones||Herself||Reality television/Executive producer|
|2010||Freaknik: The Musical||Tyra Banks/Oprah Winfrey (voice)||TV movie|
|2011||Duran Duran: Unstaged||Herself||Direct-to-Video documentary|
|2011||Top Chef Masters||Quickfire Judge (Herself)||"Everything Old Is New Again" (Season 3, Episode 2)|
|2012||Fashion Police||Herself||Guest judge|
|2013||Brazzaville Teen-Ager||Herself||Short film|
|2014||Saucy & Sweet||Herself||Cooking special|
|2014||Holiday Feast with Kelis||Herself||Cooking special|
|2000||"Caught Out There"||Q Award for Best Video||Won|
|2001||Kelis||BRIT Award for Best International Breakthrough Act||Won|
|Kelis||NME Award for Best R&B/Soul Act||Won|
|2004||"Milkshake"||MTV Europe Music Award for Best R&B||Nominated|
|Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance||Nominated|
|Q Award for Best Video||Nominated|
|2005||Kelis||BRIT Award for Best International Female||Nominated|
|2007||Kelis Was Here||Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album||Nominated|
|"Bossy"||Urban Music Award for Best Music Video||Nominated|
|Kelis||Urban Music Award for Best R&B Act||Nominated|
|2010||Kelis||Silver Clef Raymond Weil International Award||Won|
|2014||Kelis||Soul Train Music Award for Centric Certified Award||Nominated|