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When it started its climb to the Top Ten of Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart in late 1999, "Caught Out There" seemed like an audacious experiment: "What if Millie Jackson had a younger daughter signed to Ruff Ryders?" Instead, the retaliatory breakup anthem with a screamed chorus was the solo debut of Kelis Rogers, a charismatic singer with a singular rasp who would soon defy comparisons. Over the next seven years, Kelis scored additional hits with the Top Ten pop single "Milkshake" and the multi-platinum "Bossy," but those singles were mere appetizers for some of the boldest albums in contemporary pop-R&B, namely Tasty (2003) and the Grammy-nominated Kelis Was Here (2006). Kelis has continued to confound expectations. After Flesh Tone (2010), a biographical and convincing left turn into electronic dance music, and Food (2014), a loosely conceptual work mixing funk and soul with classic pop, she took an extended break from music, and returned with "Midnight Snacks" (2021). Bred in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood, Kelis Rogers left home at 16 and landed a deal with Virgin four years later. Having linked with emergent production team the Neptunes, she provided background vocals on Noreaga's "Superthug" and was featured on Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Got Your Money." In December 1999, months after the release of the latter single, Kelis made her full-length debut with Kaleidoscope. Produced entirely by the Neptunes, the album reached number 144 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and was more popular in the U.K., where it went gold. "Caught Out There" was the lead single and peaked on the U.S. R&B/hip-hop chart at number nine. Two years later, she and the Neptunes teamed again for Wanderland. Political reworkings within the U.S. wing of Virgin prevented a stateside release, which compelled Kelis to leave for Arista. She responded in 2003 with Tasty. It yielded the number three pop hit "Milkshake," yet another Neptunes production, and went to number 27 on the Billboard 200. "Milkshake" was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Kelis returned in 2006 on the Jive label with Kelis Was Here. It entered the Billboard 200 at number ten, led by the duly assertive number 16 pop single "Bossy," a booming Bangladesh production featuring a verse from Too Short. The album earned Kelis her second Grammy nomination, this time for Best Contemporary R&B Album. Jive subsequently packaged The Hits, a mix of singles and album cuts that also contained some of the singer's most popular collaborations, such as "Get Your Money," N.E.R.D.'s "Truth or Dare," and Richard X's "Finest Dreams." From 2006 into 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 music group and releasing Flesh Tone, an EDM-flavored set featuring productions from David Guetta, Benny Benassi, Boys Noize, Diplo, and Jean Baptiste. It peaked at number five on Billboard's club chart. The following year, she sang on Calvin Harris' single "Bounce," which hit number two on the U.K. singles chart. In 2013, Kelis signed with the cult independent U.K. label Ninja Tune. She connected with David Sitek of TV on the Radio and emerged the following year with the album Food. Compared to her earlier R&B work, the record was relatively organic -- based more on live instrumentation than her previous releases -- with a couple stylistic diversions. Around that time, she presented the program Saucy & Sweet for the Cooking Channel. Less involved with music for a few years, Kelis was featured on songs such as Giorgio Moroder's "Back and Forth" and TCTS' "Do It Like Me (Icy Feet)," appeared on the BBC One program Pitch Battle, and competed on the U.K. version of The Masked Singer. In 2021, she released "Midnight Snacks," her first proper single in seven years.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo


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