Kelis Cracking the cookie-cutter

Kelis Cracking the cookie-cutter
"They wanted me to keep my hair pink forever," sighs Kelis. It's just one of many suggestions she's fended off since signing a major label contract, but forthright and self-assured, Kelis isn't the type to collapse to the whims of spin-doctors. Her lack of a fabricated veneer is a refreshing and distinctive antidote to contemporary R&B's cookie-cutter mentality, but she still faces unfounded stereotypes. "No one expects me to have a clue," she says doggedly. "No one really thinks I know what it is I'm doing, for whatever reason."

Her stimulating debut Kaleidoscope should convert more than a few non-believers. Kelis smartly channels her influences over the eclectic sounds of improving hip-hop producers the Neptunes. Resisting being a pet project of the duo, Kelis asserts herself with lyrics that reveal bold sensuality and independence, and attempt to surpass a one-dimensional bump 'n' grind approach to relationships.

"It kinda blindfolds and blurs everything for people, so you get a lot of these albums that are dope, 'cos yeah, sex is great," she says diplomatically. "But what about the love of a friend, or the love of a child or your mother?" Her earnestly optimistic lyrics are often laced with such queries. Sly inclusions, like the "reality demon" that whispers rudely on the dreamy "Suspended," scuttle assumptions of giddy naivete.

One thing she would like to suppress is the short-sighted view that she hates men, fostered by the emotionally raw "Caught Out There," with its screamed chorus "I hate you so much right now!" "People ask me that dumb shit all the time," she says imitating her response in past interviews. "Am I that shallow that one man made me hate every single guy ever? No, that's insane!" While aware that many will make snap judgements and misread her, Kelis makes no apologies. "If you take the time to listen to two words I have to say, you'll be put on a path. It's up to you. I'm myself all the time; I'm consistent, so if anyone feels the need to discuss it, they can say, 'Oh shit, she was like that with me, too.'"