If we learned anything from the last few days watching how Terry Crews has seemingly dodged any accountability in his throwing Gabrielle Union under the bus, we have learned that some Black men are teething to profit even if it means stepping on the back of a Black woman.
Singer Kelis sat down with The Guardian to discuss her life outside of the glitz and glam of the industry and her choice to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles while pursuing her culinary business on a farm located two hours outside the city.
But it was her expansion on the breakdown of her relationship between her producer and former label boss Pharrell Williams. Kelis was one of the first artists to break ground with the dynamic producing duo of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. Her first single, “Caught Out There” led her on a journey of widespread acclaim.
But behind the scenes, Kelis says the money just didn’t add up at one point.
“I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do,” she said. The singer says that she was blantatly lied to and tricked,” pointing specifically to “the Neptunes and their management and their lawyers and all that stuff.”
Kelis said with the release of her first two albums she essentially made no profit but failed to notice because she had incoming revenue 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.’”
The Guardian reports that Pharrell and Chad did not respond to requests for comment.
It’s a tragic story which many young Black musicians from inner cities face. The prospect of making it big tied with signing to a label that promises you a way out of poverty, only to be stripped of the very thing you were trying to obtain. Kelis said the betrayal was even that much greater because she felt that The Neptunes were her friends.
She said The Neptunes became “offended” when she opted to work with other producers on her third album, Tasty. After that the relationship severed.
Kelis said that she saw Pharrell years later at an industry event, and almost felt inclined to say something but didn’t.
“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.”
When asked if she would ever work for the producer again she said, “Ummm, at that point there’s having faith and there is also just stupidity.”
Kelis contends that she doesn’t harbor any animosity because she believes in a higher power.
“To be honest with you, I think if it were not for my faith, I feel like that would probably be the case. It’s very clear to me, especially being on a farm, that whatever you put in the ground, that is what’s going to come back to you.”
Her relationship with her estranged ex-husband, rapper Nasir “Nas” Jones, is still seemingly strained, as she relayed that Nas is still an absentee father to their, 10-year-old son, Knight.
“My kid is a really happy child, because I don’t tell him when [his father] says he’s going to come and doesn’t show up,” she said.
Two years ago, Kelis came forward in an interview with Hollywood Unlocked’s Jason Lee, where she revealed the relationship was physically abusive. In that interview, she also said that she was first inspired to leave once she saw the photos of Rihanna’s assault by Chris Brown. But what made her finally make her exit was having her son Knight.
“I thought, you know, I can endure a lot, but I’m not prepared to bring someone else into this. So I’m done.”
Kelis has moved forward in her life and in love, marrying photographer Mike Mora with whom she has a four-year-old son named Sheperd.
“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,” she says.