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Kelis_7Kelis Rogers (1979- ), better known as just Kelis, is an American R&B singer. She is best known for “Milkshake” (2003): “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they’re like, it’s better than yours. Damn right, it’s better than yours. I can teach you, but I have to charge.”

Her two other top ten hits on the American R&B charts are: “Caught Out There” (1999), the one where she says “I hate you so much right now!” over and over, and “Bossy” (2006).

No one knows why, but her music does way better in Britain than in America. Maybe it is her hair. I first heard her on Virgin Radio from London (the same is true for Macy Gray). Not only did “Milkshake” and “Caught Out There”  make the top ten in Britain, so did “Trick Me” (2004),  “Millionaire” (2004) with Andre 3000 and “Lil Star” (2007) with Cee-Lo of Gnarls Barkley, songs  largely unknown in the States.

Kelis Trick meKelis ft. Andre 3000 - MillionaireKelis - Lil Star

Her next album comes out later this year (2009).

She has been married to rapper Nas since 2005, but separated from him in May 2009 and filed for divorce. This came just two months before she is expected to give birth to their son! She suspects him of seeing other women. They met in 2002 at a party after the MTV Video Music Awards. Before that she was just a fan of his.

She grew up in Harlem in New York. Her father was a jazz musician and her mother a fashion designer. Her father is black, her mother is Puerto Rican and Chinese. Her name comes from putting their two names together: Kenneth + Eveliss = Kelis. It rhymes with “police”.

She went to a private school in Manhattan where most people were white and did not understand her. At 13 she cut off her hair and when it grew back she started colouring it blue, green, platinum and pink, something she is known for even now. Her natural hair is Type 3 (pictured above).

Growing up she sang at church and learned to play the piano, violin and saxophone. At 16 she got in to the La Guardia High School for the Arts, a magnet high school in New York. But just then she was kicked out of the house for reasons unclear and had to support herself.

At high school she formed a singing trio, BLU (Black Ladies United). It did not go anywhere but one thing led to another and it brought her to the attention of the Neptunes – Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. With them she was able to land a recording contract with Virgin in 1998. They wrote and produced her first two hits, “Caught Out There” and “Milkshake” and much of her early music.

Kelis about her music:

Am I R&B because I’m Black? Am I pop because I have a song called “Milkshake”? Or can I just be who the hell I am? Good Lord, people make it seem like we’re doing heart transplants here, but we’re just making music!

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Three songs follow this posting:

  • Billie Holiday: My Man
  • Suzanne Vega: Luka
  • Kelis: Milkshake

They were done at three different times in three different styles of music. Two of the singers are black, one is white, But all three lived in Uptown Manhattan in New York, Manhattan north of 110th Street, and it shows.

They sing about the world as it is, as they see it with their own two eyes. Even when it is ugly and unfair – in fact, especially when it is ugly and unfair. And they sing about what they see even when it does not make any sense. They do not try to pretty it up by throwing out facts because they are unpleasant or make no sense.

In “My Man” Billie Holiday sings “He isn’t true; he beats me too” but then sings “My man, I love him so” and “when he takes me in his arms the world is bright, all right”. She has thought of leaving him but then says, “What’s the difference if I say I’ll go away when I know I’ll come back on my knees someday.”

It is like living in Uptown itself: living in a world with a big crack going right down the middle that makes no sense but you live with it somehow. The world is profoundly imperfect but you must carry on all the same.

You see the same thing in “Luka” some 40 years later. It is about a boy who is being beaten. He tries to lie about it to his neighbour but the song does not play along with him. He too is trying to live with a big crack in his life and somehow make sense of it. “You just don’t argue anymore”.

In “Milkshake”, instead of beating women and children, men are driven by lust. The women with the best bodies get their man. Again, it looks at the world as it is in all its unfairness. It has no patience for politically correct ideas of beauty that many want to believe in.

Why this love of the ugly truth? Why songs about the unfairness of life? Because in Uptown the truth is ugly and life is profoundly unfair. Yet you have to make sense of it somehow.

All this is very different from how mainstream America sees life and the world.

In mainstream America people think they can get through life clean, that if they have enough money, enough police protection, that if they build their gates high enough and strong enough, they will get through life with as little suffering as possible.

But that is the life of escape, that is the life of an overgrown child. And, in America, it is a life built on lies. It is not the life for anyone with a true heart.

Sooner or later you will suffer, then what? And when the bad times come where will you run? And when all your lies have been knocked flat, where will you hide?

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My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
and they’re like,
its better than yours,
damn right its better than yours,
i can teach you,
but i have to charge

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
and they’re like,
its better than yours,
damn right its better than yours,
i can teach you,
but i have to charge

I know you want it,
the thing that makes me,
what the guys go crazy for.
They lose their minds,
the way i wind,
i think its time

la la-la la la,
warm it up.
lala-lalala,
the boys are waiting

la la-la la la,
warm it up.
lala-lalala,
the boys are waiting

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
and they’re like,
its better than yours,
damn right its better than yours,
i can teach you,
but i have to charge

i can see youre on it,
you want me to teach the
techniques that freaks these boys,
it can’t be bought,
just know, thieves get caught,
watch if your smart,

la la-la la la,
warm it up,
la la-la la la,
the boys are waiting,

la la-la la la,
warm it up,
la la-la la la,
the boys are waiting,

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
and they’re like,
its better than yours,
damn right its better than yours,
i can teach you,
but i have to charge

Once you get involved,
everyone will look this way-so,
you must maintain your charm,
same time maintain your halo,
just get the perfect blend,
plus what you have within,
then next his eyes are squint,
then he’s picked up your scent,

lala-lalala,
warm it up,
lala-lalala,
the boys are waiting,

lala-lalala,
warm it up,
lala-lalala,
the boys are waiting,

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
and they’re like,
its better than yours,
damn right its better than yours,
i can teach you,
but i have to charge

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