Kelis launched her career with a 1999 album entirely produced by the Neptunes, aka Pharrell and Chad Hugo. She went on to work with the duo all the way up to her third record, 2003's Tasty, but in an interview with the Guardian she has revealed why the creative partnership eventually turned sour. She was reportedly told by Hugo and Pharrell that she would get an even split, but that later turned out not to be the case.
"I thought it was a beautiful and pure, creative safe space. But it ended up not being that at all,” Kelis explained. "I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do."
Despite the promise of an even split, she said the production duo "blatantly lied to and tricked" her. She went on to claim that because of "the Neptunes and their management and their lawyers and all that stuff," she didn't make any money from her first two records. It is worth pointing out, however, that Kelis doesn't have songwriting credits for all of the tracks on her first two albums, and record deals typically includes a cut for the songwriters. Since she wasn't a writer or producer on most of these tracks, an even split seems unlikely. The nature of the deal that she signed with the Neptunes still isn't clear, though.
At first, she didn't notice that lack of income from her music because she was touring, "and just the fact that I wasn't poor felt enough." She continued, "Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed it.’ I’m like: ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.'" Despite this, she said she's not angry and is "just stating the facts."
By the time it came around to recording her third album, she started to work with other producers. She said that because of that, the Neptunes "were really offended." Asked if she would ever work with Pharrell again, in particular, she made her stance very clear. "At that point there's having faith and there is also just stupidity," she remarked. (In an interview with i-D last year, Kelis made a passing reference to her poor experience with the Neptunes, claiming she was "robbed blind.")
Complex has reached out to a rep for Pharrell for comment.
During the conversation with the Guardian, she also touched upon her allegedly abusive relationship with ex-husband Nas. She said she felt compelled to leave him after she saw the photographs of Rihanna after she was assaulted by Chris Brown. "It just woke me up," Kelis said, adding that her pregnancy made her realise how urgently she needed to leave. "I can endure a lot, but I'm not prepared to bring someone else into this. So I'm done."
Kelis got together with Nas when she was young, which she attributes to why she didn't see the "red flags" early on. "I was really young and didn't know that love isn't enough," she continued. "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 shit is that? I want to breathe!"