Kelis’ Cooking Show on The Cooking Channel is Saucy & Sweet.
Kelis Rogers, who broke out in 2003 with her booty-popping come-on “Milkshake,” has a history of surprising her fans. The Harlem native’s 2006 album, “Kelis Was Here,” staged a rebellion against the pop sound that established her, forgoing the signature Neptunes production of her first three albums in favor of an eclectic sound with a wide-ranging cast of collaborators. She followed up four years later with yet another new direction, the boundary-pushing electro-dance riot “Flesh Tone.” If that wasn’t enough to prove her restlessness, somewhere in the middle she also attended culinary school, becoming a Le Cordon Bleu-certified chef; she even hosts her own Cooking Channel show, “Saucy & Sweet.”
Now, in typical shape-shifting fashion, the 34-year-old has released a sixth album, “Food” (out later this month), that’s a soul-inflected, culinary-themed charmer produced by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio (whose other credits include the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Santigold). The artist admits that music often “has to fit into a category for people to even begin to want to digest it.” But, as Kelis discusses here, and has proven time and again, she’s not afraid of switching up the recipe.
Did you have a pre-planned idea of the direction you wanted to take your new album?
It’s funny, I always have an idea in my mind about what something’s going to be, but it never really turns out that way. Not that it’s better or worse, just different.
What drew you to enlist Dave Sitek as producer for the album?
Sometimes you think you want to work with someone and you meet them and you’re like, “Ugh!” I never really have any expectations. With Dave, we met and we just had such a great initial conversation. And it wasn’t about any of the particular music that we were going to make or that we made. I felt like he saw himself in music the way that I see myself.
“Food” was inspired by the records your parents played for you as a child.
I grew up listening to a lot of gospel and a lot of jazz. And some Latin — like salsa and merengue. There’s sort of where it all started for me.
So you channeled those sounds into the album?
It was less about the music and more about the memories I had associated with it. The songs sounded like they’d been around forever. Like they’d always existed. I wanted something that felt like it stood on its own, whether it was me playing it now or my friend playing it 30 years from now.
Your musical process is full immersion, much in the style of method acting.
That’s how my brain works. When I get my claws into something, I go all the way in. I have fun and I love it. It’s not even a chore. It’s just how I think. The way I dress, the way I write. I’m pretty consistent like that. That’s how I process information.
What motivated you to attend culinary school following your 2006 album, “Kelis Was Here?”
I felt like I was done with music. I was just like, “I’m going to do something else. I’m over it.” I felt like I far exceeded any expectation that I put on myself as far as accolades for music. The business had sucked the life out of the enjoyment for me. And I was fine with that.
It is therapeutic for me, and I love it. We all love stuff we’re good at.
Does cooking feel like work?
I’m not good at doing halfway. So even if I’m just cooking for my son and my best friend, I’m going all out or I’m just not doing it. Medium is not a temperature that I’m comfortable with. You should love it. It should be hard work. You should suffer for it. You should sweat sometimes. And you might get burned.
“Food” feels particularly personal. Listening to a song like “Rumble” (We got so much history/I hurt you, you hurt me), it’s hard not to hear memories of your relationship with ex-husband Nas.
Sometimes I feel like I want to be really genuine and autobiographical. And then some days I heard something or I thought of something and it’s an interesting scenario and I think, “How can I play this out?” We play a role. Anyone that says that as artists or entertainers that we’re not actors too … of course we are. But you can only pretend so much in 10 to 12 songs.
What does the future hold for Kelis? You’re notoriously reluctant to commit to future projects.
At the end of the day, anyone who really thinks that they have control over what happens, they’re going to be miserable. And when we do, you’re underestimating the beauty of God and what he does and how awesome he is. I’m cool with whatever comes. If I make 10 more albums, great! If I never make another one, awesome! I don’t need this.
Source: T Magazine by By Dan Hyman