In a new interview with The Guardian, Kelis accuses producers Pharrell and Chad Hugo of screwing her out of all profits from her first two albums, 1999’s Kaleidoscope and 2001’s Wanderland.
Kelis befriended the Neptunes through a mutual friend at New York’s Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Upon signing to Virgin, she recruited them to produce all of her music, resulting in a fruitful creative partnership. But she says she later felt betrayed by her friends:
“I thought it was a beautiful and pure, creative safe space, but it ended up not being that at all.”
Kelis says she was “blatantly lied to and tricked” by “the Neptunes and their management and their lawyers and all that stuff.” Specifically, “I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do.” Instead, she didn’t make any money from sales of those first two albums, a fact she didn’t realize until later because she was making money from touring and “just the fact that I wasn’t poor felt like enough.” This wasn’t technically theft.
Kelis admits she signed the deal without understanding what she was doing, assuming everyone was acting in good faith:
“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.'”
Later in the story she recounts a time when Pharrell nodded at her from the stage at a show:
“I’m like, OK, I’m not going to yell back, ‘You stole all my publishing!’ So you end up nodding back and everyone thinks everything’s great.”
As for working with Pharrell again:
“Ummm, at that point there’s having faith and there is also just stupidity.”