Between her breakout into the music scene and her recent culinary endeavors, here's everything to know about singer-songwriter Kelis
Kelis' hit single "Milkshake" still brings its listeners to the yard, nearly two decades after its release.
Since entering the music scene in the late 1990s and releasing her aforementioned hit-single in 2003, the hitmaker whipped up a musical treat that has forever solidified itself in pop culture history.
The single was not only met with critical acclaim (like receiving a Grammy nomination in 2004), but it dominated the charts, peaking at No. 3 on Billboard's Hot 100 and becoming Kelis' highest-charting single to date. Furthermore, it has also been featured in numerous TV shows and films.
Following the release of "Milkshake," Kelis — who doubles as a musician and a chef extraordinaire — has drawn fans and foodies alike to her song-inspired-by-cuisine scene. Subsequent projects include "Jerk Ribs," "Friday Fish Fry" and "Midnight Snacks."
In 2015, Kelis published a cookbook, My Life on a Plate: Recipes from Around the World, which she described as "an exploration of tastes and cultures, and my experience as a chef, musician, mother, and wife." (Ironically, no milkshake recipe was included.)
While the multi-talent has ventured into the food space, she hasn't exited the music scene completely. In fact, she's still creating music — and performing, too! Most recently, she performed a set at Mighty Hoopla festival in London attracting many, of which Bill Murray was among the thousands in the crowd.
Here's everything to know about Kelis, who's rocked the music scene since the '90s.
Her name is a portmanteau of her parents' names
Widely known mononymously by her first name, the "Milkshake" singer was born Kelis Rogers. In fact, Kelis is a combination of both her parents' names: father Kenneth and mother Eveliss.
Kelis is a New York City native, raised alongside her three sisters in Harlem. Her parents heavily influenced her career in music, specifically her father who was a musician in his own right. He placed his focus in the African-American jazz genre.
“I grew up hanging out in jazz clubs, falling asleep there with people stepping over me, because that’s where my parents were, so they just took me," she told The Guardian in a 2020 interview. "But you look at parents today and they’re like: ‘Oh my God, it’s nap time, I can’t talk to you!’ And it’s all: ‘We can’t go there because we have kids!’ I’m like, did we die when we had kids?'"
She added, “And then there’s a disconnect: I’m hypersensitive to the stuff my parents fought for because they weren’t sheltering me from the realities."
She attended performing arts school in New York City
Kelis was involved in music all throughout grade school. When she was a child, she participated in church choirs and played violin, piano and saxophone while attending a private N.Y.C. school in Manhattan.
She continued her musical pursuit at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, also in NYC. She formed an R&B trio known as BLU (Black Ladies United) while there.
She created her debut album with Pharrell Williams
Kelis entered the music scene in the 1990s, releasing her debut album Kaleidoscope in 1999. At age 19, she was introduced to song-writing and production duo The Neptunes, which consisted of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. They formed a close bond and the three were signed by Virgin Records.
However, their working relationship took a turn. “I thought it was a beautiful and pure, creative safe space,” she told The Guardian. “But it ended up not being that at all.” Publishing royalties and credits between them were at the center of the discourse.
“I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do,” she of her first two albums, which The Neptunes produced. Rather, she told the outlet, she was “blatantly lied to and tricked." As a result, she said she made nothing from sales of her first two albums: Kaleidoscope and 2001's Wanderland.
In response to their argument that she "signed [the contract]," Kelis said, "I signed what I was told and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.’” Williams and Hugo of The Neptunes are the sole credited writers and producers on the 2003 track.
She earned a Grammy nomination for 'Milkshake'
While the release of Kelis' first two albums received attention, like her first single "Caught Out There" off Kaleidoscope; however, it wasn't until her third album that she saw her massive breakthrough and mainstream success.
In 2003, Kelis released her third album, Tasty, which spawned her Grammy-nominated signature hit, "Milkshake." In August 2021, the singer reflected on her critically-acclaimed work that had a defining pop-culture moment nearly two decades later.
"This is going to sound really cocky and really arrogant, but I saw a picture of myself that someone posted [from the Tasty era] earlier today, and I was like, 'You know what, I was freaking killing it,'" she told PEOPLE. "Sometimes you just need to remind yourself, 'I've been this, and I've been doing it.' It's OK to say that."
In fact, Kelis often feels as though her work was ahead of its time. "I used to say, back in the day, when I would sit in front of my label heads, and they'd be like, 'What are you doing?' and I was like, 'Well, I'm consistently inconsistent.' That works now — because I've got over 25 years in the game."
She moved out of Los Angeles to live on a farm
While Kelis is a New York native, she moved to Los Angeles to further pursue her career in music. However, she and her family made the decision to move out of the Californian city to a farm two hours away in Temecula during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I hate L.A. I was only ever there for work," Kelis told The Guardian. "Because it's not like New York or London, there's nowhere to go after 10 at night, so suddenly you're getting up early in the mornings and you're juicing and you're hiking and figuring out how much wheatgrass can you actually intake."
She added, "So I thought, if I'm going to be in California, I should be where I can appreciate how beautiful it really is, not stuck in LA and pretending it's a city that's fun."
She pursued cooking endeavors
In addition to her musical endeavors, Kelis doubles as a food connoisseur. In fact, her foray into the culinary world came long before her move to the farm. Following the release of 2006's Kelis Was Here, the "Milkshake" hitmaker studied culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu.
"Milkshake" aside, Kelis has whipped up a unique career path mixing food and beverages with music. In 2014, she dropped her fifth studio album Food, featuring songs like "Jerk Ribs" and "Friday Fish Fry." She's since written a cookbook, 2015's My Life on a Plate, hosted multiple cooking shows and begun selling some of her own crops through her Bounty & Full online store.
In 2021, Kelis released the sultry single "Midnight Snacks," which she's followed up in 2022 with the Kraft Singles partnership song "Square It" as well as "Feed Them," released with meal delivery company Daily Harvest.
Kelis — who's also a farmer — has her forthcoming album in the works, called Dirt. She's creating the project from a studio on the farm, and listeners will be sure to get that real farm-like vibe. "I'm on the farm, so you're going to hear farm stuff," she told PEOPLE. "I'm always comfortable in the imperfections."
She's the mother of three children
Kelis is the mother of three children. She has two sons and one daughter.
The singer welcomed her first child, son Knight, in July 2009. She shares him with her ex-husband, rapper Nas. In December 2015, she gave birth to her second child, son Shepherd, whom she shared with husband Mike Mora.
In March 2022, Mora died at 37 years old following a two-year-long health battle after being diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer — two years after the couple welcomed daughter Galilee in September 2020.
All of Kelis' children moved with her to the farm. "I farm because I want to eat a certain way, and I want my kids to grow up a certain way," she told PEOPLE of the ethos behind her relocation. "I want to breathe a certain way. I want to walk a certain way, and I don't want to be told how to do it. It's Kelis Land. It's my space."
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