Four years ago, Kelis debuted with Kaleidoscope, screaming at the top of her lungs a tale of a woman scorned: “I hate you so much right now.” Delivering her words over punctuating Neptunes beats, Kelis established herself as a stylish, transcendent pop figure — a vibrant hip-hop woman who could cry, croon, scream and rock.
But since then, Kelis has only been found on the fringes, with a cameo here, a party there. She makes her formal return to the game December 9 with Tasty, her second album in the States. The first single, “Milkshake,” is gaining a buzz on the streets and radio with its idiosyncratic funk and Kelis’ sexy, euphemistic playground rap: “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard/ And they’re like, ’It’s better than yours.’ ”
In the video, Kelis plays up the seductive side of her persona, bursting into a diner called Tasty’s Yard and tantalizing patrons with her sultry sashaying. Just as suggestive as Kelis’ dance are her actions. At one point, she wraps her lips around a cherry and sucks its head off the stem, causing a mother to cover her child’s eyes. With a ’sacred cow’ milkshake machine pumping out shakes for customers and with Kelis’ fiancé, Nas, playing a short-order cook, she turns the diner into the hottest spot in town, with everyone clamoring to get a look at her “milkshake.”
Tasty finds Kelis running between sexy and pensive, confident and vulnerable, but perhaps the most remarkable part about the album is that the Neptunes are no longer helming all her songs. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, who discovered Kelis and produced the entirety of her debut, only recorded five songs with her this time, including the tangy, bouncy pop tune “Suga Honey Iced Tea.”
Kelis enlisted a range of other songwriters and beatmakers to help shape her album. P. Diddy recorded “Guilty Girl,” interpolating a bassline sample originally used in the West Coast hip-hop hit “’93 ’Til Infinity” by Souls of Mischief. Dallas Austin, who has worked with TLC and Brandy, uses a saucy, old funk beat for his song, “Trick Me,” which features Kelis at her most kittenish. Other producers used for Tasty include fellow Harlemite Dame Grease, hip-hop hitmaker Rockwilder, Timbaland, Wyclef Jean and Raphael Saddiq.
In 2001 Kelis reunited with the Neptunes to record a follow-up album, Wanderland, which was only released in Europe (see “Kelis In Wanderland, But Still In Your Face” ). It featured a duet with Gwen Stefani called “Perfect Day” and the song “Popular Thug,” which was later re-recorded and included on The Neptunes Present …Clones compilation. Wanderland wasn’t released Stateside because her label at the time, Virgin, was undergoing major internal restructuring. She has since moved to Arista under the Neptunes’ Star Trak imprint.