KELIS / “Young, Fresh N’ New”
Tell us about the album: 'Young Fresh and New'... Basically it's a call out... I don't know how to say it in short really... it's like about me and everybody else I know in our generation and just the fact that we're young and it seems like we have nothing to fight for. And when we should essentially be fighting for ourselves, after all we are the entrepreneurial generation, so many people are just dabbling in routine just because that's what it is. The song is about that we're young now, you know, so don't wait till you're 35 40 to say oh I should have done this because we are this right now. So you're saying people are a bit apathetic? Er, I wouldn't say apathetic. I guess that could be the major message if there is one but the first part is more like - I am young, I feel this, I... you know, people older than me are always questioning how I live my life the way I do, and this is why I do - because I can and I don't feel like I should have to apologise for being young and feeling young. But people always want you to... (puts on mature voice) straighten up and fly right. Well screw you - I am flying right. I'm young, I'm not reckless it's just this is how I live. So that's the first part and then the bigger picture is that it's not just me, there's a lot of people that need to let loose a little. —Big Bang's Jasper Stone http://www.kelis.co.uk/talk_wanderland.htmlI’m the father of five children -- three daughters, two sons -- the oldest born in 1970, the youngest in 1977. Kelis interests me for a number of reasons both obvious and not. Although she is obviously very talented, I’m not a fan of Kelis' music, nor do I like any of her videos. So what keeps me from liking her and, if I don’t like her music, why am I spending time writing about her? From one of her many fan sites, a bio reads in part: “Born Kelis Rogers (her name, pronounced 'kuh-LEESE,' is a combination of her parents' first names), the singer-songwriter was raised in a middle-class household in Harlem. Her Puerto Rican and Chinese mother, Eveliss, is a fashion designer, and her black father, Kenneth, who died two days before she inked her former deal with Virgin in 1998, was a jazz musician and a Pentecostal minister. As a child, Kelis sang in her church choir as well as the Girl's Choir of Harlem, and played violin, piano and saxophone while attending a prestigious private school on Manhattan's stodgy Upper East Side. “When she was 13, Kelis shaved her head and, after it grew back, dyed it a succession of colors (blue-black, blood red, green, orange, platinum blond and pink). By the time she had turned 16 and enrolled as a drama major at New York’s renowned La Guardia School for the Arts (immortalized in both the movie and television series Fame), her parents, worn out from trying to control her, kicked her out of the house.” What interests me is the future, not where I will fit into it, but how our children and their children will cope with the future and, hopefully, create a better future. There’s a lot of anger and discontent among the youth. For all the success, there’s a ton of bitter angst. And in Kelis’ case, brought up middle class, in Harlem, the youngest of three daughters born to a former jazz musician turned Pentacostal minister and a bi-racial (Chinese and Puerto Rican) fashion designer of children’s clothing, the etiology of her demons/desires is most certainly not the result of material deprivation. There is an intricate intertwining of parental expectations and filial resentments, sort of noir rebels without good cause(s). For the last seven years I have taught and interacted with high school students. Some of my students have since then majored in Communications in college, partially a result of taking classes with me. I’m proud of them, but I’m also concerned about many of them. Kelis’ father is deceased. He died two days before she signed her first record deal. He never saw her success. It’s only a guess, but I believe he died heartbroken. Looking at the "Milkshake" video, I tried to imagine how I would feel if Kelis was my daughter. I wonder how Kelis' tattoos will look when she’s fifty, assuming of course that she lives to be fifty. What kind of parent will she be? Ironically, it was Albert Ayler who said “music is the healing force of the universe.” Ironically, because Ayler died young, his body discovered in a New York City river, generally believed to be the result of suicide. Music could not heal what was ailing him. I wonder: does the music Kelis makes bring solace and satisfaction to her. I’ve not heard one Kelis song I want to hear again. But I will keep listening. Keep hoping. Hoping that she will find whatever it is she is seeking. I don’t feel sorry for Kelis. And frankly, I don’t believe a lot of the image she puts forth. The mood swings are so wide, some of the imagery so obviously calculated to shock, to attract attention. Sixteen in the streets of NYC. Suriving on one’s own. Is the soft porn an act? Or is it a reflection of what she’s seen, what she’s…. On the one hand, there’s her famous “Caught Out There” song (AKA the “I hate you so much right now! Aaargh!” song) on the first album, addressed to a cheating man. On the other hand, there’s the sexual braggadocio of “Milkshake” and the wilding-out sexual fantasizing of “In Public.” I’m a heterosexual male, I respond when titillated. But I’m also a father, and I am deeply concerned. Kelis, call home. Home, open your doors to Kelis. We’ve got to find a way to reach out to each other. Being judgmental won’t help. Right now, I don’t know what will help, but for sure, the entertainment industry doesn’t help. The industry encourages anything that sells, and when you stop selling, they stop encouraging you. One day I hope to hear a classic record from Kelis, a record that tells us at the deepest level where Kelis is coming from, where she’s at, and, sincerely, where she hopes to go. Kelis, keep singing. I’ll keep listening. —Kalamu ya Salaam "Young, Fresh And New" is taken from Kelis' second album, which was inexplicably never released in the U.S. Click the link to purchase Wanderland from amazon.com. When war is over / Is the peace meaningful? Obviously, I can't tell you what you're writing about, but the way I see it, you aren't writing about Kelis. You're writing about what the post-Civil Rights generation has or has not done with the opportunities your generation worked so hard to provide. It's an understandable concern. But to address the Kelis thing quickly, I don't take her (or her antics) seriously, primarily because it doesn't appear that she takes herself seriously. I'm reminded of the Halle Berry thing: I keep hearing how Halle wants to be taken seriously as an actress, then everytime I see her on the cover of a magazine, her breasts are hanging out. Should a woman have a right to dress however she wants? Of course. But said woman should also recognize that presenting herself (or allowing herself to be presented) in a conspicuously sexual manner will cause the majority of people to react to her (and her music and her acting and her art of any kind) as a sex object. When Kelis begins to behave publicly as though she considers herself an artist, I'll start paying attention to her as an artist. Until then.... As to the larger issue, the unfortunate truth is you all did fight and did win for us the opportunity to be free to do what we want to do. It appears, though, that what a lot of us want to do is abuse each other or ourselves, and wear fancy jewelry. Like the Bush administration in Iraq, the Civil Rights generation overlooked a crucial element of winning a war: the endgame. I'd argue that the Civil Rights generation actually did win a lot of what they were fighting for -- access to better jobs, education, transportation, political representation, etc. -- but didn't focus enough on what they really needed to win: that is, the minds, souls and spirits of their children. A lot of post-Civil Rights children grew up feeling cut adrift from anything that mattered. Perhaps this is because a lot of the foot soldiers in the war -- not to mention captains and generals -- ended the Seventies (if they made it out alive at all) as bits and pieces of their former selves, as casualties of war. These fighters also happened to be fathers and mothers. As the brother once asked, who's going to stay at home when the freedom fighters are fighting? And, if and when the freedom fighters win, when the war is finally over, will the peace be a meaningful peace? If not, what was the fight for? —Mtume ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Sunday, July 3rd, 2005 at 12:02 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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