A charismatic singer and songwriter who, for several years, was closely associated with the Neptunes, Kelis arrived at the tail end of the '90s and left an immediate impression with her first solo single, "Caught Out There" -- a Top Ten R&B single with a frank and screamed chorus. While her other Top Ten R&B single, 2003's "Milkshake," was also something of a novelty hit -- and also produced by the Neptunes -- Kelis released some of the most creative R&B albums of the late '90s and 2000s. In the 2010s, she took left turns that defied expectations and remained a fascinating, unpredictable artist.
Bred in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood, Kelis Rogers left home at 16 and landed a deal with Virgin four years later. She appeared in August 1999 with a featured role on Ol' Dirty Bastard's Neptunes-produced single "Got Your Money." Her debut album, Kaleidoscope, was out by the end of the year, produced entirely by the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. It peaked at only number 144 in the U.S. but went gold in the U.K. Two years later, she teamed up with the Neptunes once again for Wanderland. The album was issued in Europe only. Political reworkings within the U.S. wing of Virgin prevented a stateside release, which compelled Kelis to leave for Arista. Released in 2003, Tasty followed and yielded the Top Ten hit "Milkshake," yet another Neptunes production. After Kelis married Nas (a relationship that would last roughly four years), Kelis Was Here was released in 2006 through Jive and was led by the duly assertive "Bossy." The album spawned no other hits, and it would be her last studio work for the label. Jive subsequently packaged The Hits, a mix of singles and album cuts that also featured some of the singer's most popular collaborations ("Get Your Money," N.E.R.D.'s "Truth or Dare," Richard X's "Finest Dreams").
Between 2006 and 2010, Kelis indulged her other passion, cookery -- enrolling at and eventually graduating from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school as a fully qualified chef. In 2010 she returned to music, signing to Interscope through the will.i.am music group and releasing Fleshtone (2010), a dance-flavored set featuring productions from David Guetta, Benny Benassi, Boys Noize, Diplo, and Jean Baptiste. The following year she sang on Calvin Harris' single "Bounce," which hit number two on the U.K. singles chart. In 2013 Kelis made the surprising announcement that she had signed with Ninja Tune, the cult British label better known for its electronica releases. She went into the studio with Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio producing, and emerged the following year with the album Food, slated for release in April. The album had a raw, classic soul/funk/R&B sound and featured a number of food-related song titles, such as the single "Jerk Ribs," inspired by Kelis' culinary adventures. To coincide with its release, she presented her own TV cooking show, Saucy & Sweet. ~ MacKenzie Wilson