In a new interview with the Guardian, Kelis — who was recently eliminated from The Masked Singer U.K. after being mistaken for the late Natalie Cole — reflects on the tumultuous relationship, which began in 2002 and ended with her filing for divorce while seven months pregnant with their son, Knight. In 2018, the singer spoke publicly for the first time about the physical abuse she endured during their marriage, which Nas has denied. He, in turn, has publicly accused her of subjecting him to “very hostile behavior and verbal abuse” as well as “physical violent attacks.”
“The red flags were there,” the 40-year-old star told the British newspaper of the marriage. “I was really young and didn’t know that love isn’t enough. It was crazy from the start, but I think as girls we’re taught that that’s what love is, like you can’t breathe without them. What kind of s*** is that? I want to breathe!”
Kelis has said in the past that Chris Brown’s arrest for assaulting then-girlfriend Rihanna in March 2009 — the month before she left Nas, whom she had wed in 2005 — prompted her to confront the toxicity of her own relationship.
“It just woke me up,” she told the Guardian of the highly publicized domestic abuse case. Being pregnant also spurred her to take action.
“I thought, you know, I can endure a lot, but I’m not prepared to bring someone else into this,” she added. “So I’m done.”
Things remain acrimonious. Kelis, who has since remarried and given birth to a second son, also disputed Nas’s claims that she’s keeping Knight from him.
“Any rational person would look at this situation and say [to him]: ‘Well, if you want to see [your child], you have to actually show up!’” she responded. “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.”
Kelis, who is marking the 20th anniversary of her debut album, Kaleidoscope, also addressed her falling out with Pharrell, who produced her early work alongside Neptunes partner Chad Hugo.
“I thought it was a beautiful and pure, creative safe space,” she said of her work with the Neptunes. “But it ended up not being that at all.”
She told the paper that she was “blatantly lied to and tricked” into signing a contract that prevented her from making money from the sales of her first two albums.
“Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed it,’” she said of Pharrell and Hugo, who did not comment on her claims. “I’m like: ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.’”
Kelis added that the producing duo seemed “really offending” when she found new collaborators for her third album. She also recounted a moment from a few years ago in which she crossed paths with Pharrell at an event where he performed.
“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 recalled, laughing. “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 work with the “Happy” star again, she responded, “Ummm, at that point there’s having faith and there is also just stupidity.”
She added, “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 anymore.”
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