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The Music Interview: Kelis

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ver since Lil’ Kim first locked herself in a recording studio with a beatbox and a speculum, it hasn’t been difficult to find a dirty-talking female performer lazing around the charts. Either Kia’s getting a rim job or Britney’s coyly offering to be your slave.

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Don’t read me wrong. I want to hear girls get raw. They make you want to dance. They make you want to send MP3s to your friends and say, “Could she have used more words for ‘pussy’ on that track?” But they don’t, usually, make you want to fuck. With her new album Tasty, Kelis changes this. On “In Public,” she sings: “He was next to me/my flight was supposed to leave around 2:53/All I wanted to see/Is what would he do if I dropped down to my knees.” It’s about dirty thoughts precipitating dirty deeds, about sex in context, not some hypothetical red-satin-and-mirrors, pimpalicious freak zone.

After hitting big with “Milkshake,” a sassy, sexy playground taunt ("My milkshake is better than yours/I could teach you, but I’d have to charge"), Kelis is getting the airtime she deserves. The New York City native took time to talk to me about sharing underwear, collaborating with Andre 3000 and getting caught by your boyfriend’s mom. Then she answered reader questions to Cosmo, just because. — Carrie Hill Wilner

My friends and I have a running bet as to what “Milkshake” refers to. You’ve said, “It’s the thing that makes you sensual, warm and maternal. It could be about breasts, but I don’t have huge tits, so you’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.” I maintain that its some kind of dance. My roommate thinks it’s about blowjobs. I need you to clear this up for us.
[laughter] It’s all those things.

Just tell me it’s a dance so I can collect five bucks from my roommate.
Absolutely, that’s it. Go get your five bucks.

Thanks so much. So, are you aware you’ve made an album that is basically impossible not to have sex to?
Ha! I love that. I never heard that before.

Nerve just ran a First Time issue. Is there anything you can tell me about your first time for the sake of, um, journalism?
I assume you’re talking a sexual experience?

I guess if you want to tell me about your first time doing something else, you’re free to do that.
Right in the middle of my first time, my then-boyfriend’s mother walked in on us. She was a nurse. She kicked him out of the house and made me watch, like, three hours of contraceptive videos.

Oh God, that’s awful.
It was a nightmare.

With her there?
Oh yeah.

I’d probably never have sex again. I’m glad you’ve rebounded so successfully.
That was definitely traumatic. I hated her.

I read that you went to LaGuardia High School. Is this true?
Yeah.

“Either I don’t get it on, or I want it all the way.”

So did I! This is exciting. You’ve done our principal, Dr. Saronson, proud. Who was your favorite teacher?
Hmm. Mr. Shiftman, I think. They were all theatre teachers.

I didn’t know them. Drama kids always hung out in the basement while I was smoking in the eighth-floor bathrooms.
Yeah, well, I was smoking in the basement bathrooms.

Those are some good smoking bathrooms.
Absolutely. A lot of the instrumental majors got really mad at us, though.

Well, they were touchy fuckers. Your albums are more straightforward about female sexuality than just about anything out there. I have a Cosmo on my desk right now, opened to the question-and-answer section. Their answers are stupid; the antithesis of straightforward. “Try dressing up like a schoolgirl” seems to be their solution to every problem. So I’m redirecting the advice-seekers to you.
Sounds good.

Okay, first question: “I have a crush on my gynecologist. I think he likes me too. I just got out of a four-year relationship, so I might be misreading the signs, but from what I can tell, he’s interested. How do I let him know how I feel?”
Gross! I think that’s completely inappropriate. That’s really pitiful. That’s depressing. That scares me. Your doctor is supposed to be nice and friendly and make you feel comfortable. It doesn’t mean that he wants you! I think she just needs a new GYN.

Next: “My girlfriend is into some pretty kinky stuff, but recently she’s been asking if she can dress me up like a woman before we have sex. At first I thought it sounded kind of hot, and the first couple of times it didn’t bother me, but now she wants to dress me up more often. All I have to do is wear some makeup and her underwear, but it’s starting to freak me out. I know she’s been with women a couple of times before, but she assures me she’s not gay. What is this about?
I don’t know. Domination? Ugh.

Not your thing?
Not at all.

Can you tell me a little bit about your collaborations with Andre 3000?
I did a song on his album. Even before that, he called me and said he had a record for me. So I went into the studio with him and we just started workng. He’s a person who’s got a lot of insight, but it’s dope because he really lets you do what you want to do. Honestly, I was blessed. Everyone I worked with on the album was really great.

At the beginning of “In Public,” Nas refers to you as “Kelis/ sexy beast,” which I think is excellent. I need a nickname, something that rhymes with "Carrie." There aren’t many options other than "hairy." I was wondering if you could help me out with that.
Nas came up with that. I can ask him for you, if you’d like me to.

That would be great. What was it like recording "Candy" with Foxy Brown?
Um, I’ll say it was really brief. Just kind of in and out.

A few weeks ago, there was a sketch on Saturday Night Live that wasn’t complimentary of your singing on "Milkshake." Do you find that kind of attention offensive or flattering?
Oh, I love it. You have to have a sense of humor about yourself.

Back to “Milkshake.” You say, “I could teach you, but I’d have to charge.” Would you consider doing that — maybe setting up a milkshake clinic for the milkshake-impaired, as charitable work?
No, I just spread the word everywhere I go.

So it’s more of a gospel than a skill set.
[laughter] Um, yeah.

On “Keep it Down” you say, “Soft porn doesn’t do it for me.” Does that indicate that you’re more of a hardcore girl?
I’m an all-or-nothing person. Either I don’t get it on or, like, I want it all the way.

What are you up to now that the album is doing well?
I’m going on tour with Britney Spears in, like, two months.

Britney Spears? How do you feel about that?
It should be dope. I’m excited.

Hmm. As long as you play New York.
[laughter] Yeah, I’m going to New York. By then I’ll have a better name for you.  

   

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