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BIO from ultimatekelis.com



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.

Although Kelis remembers those tumultuous years as a miserable time during which she struggled to support herself by working odd jobs, she stuck it out in high school rather than dropping out. At La Guardia, she formed an ill-fated R&B trio called BLU (Black Ladies United) that caught the attention of key players in the music business who helped her land gigs singing backup for fledgling rap groups such as the RZA side project, Gravediggaz. After graduation, a friend introduced her to the Neptunes, with whom she formed an immediate musical bond, and with their support, she subsequently landed the record deal that yielded Kaleidoscope.

Despite the popularity of "Caught Out There," Kaleidoscope failed to win over American listeners. The disc's vibrantly funky fusion of hip-hop, R&B, rock and soul (driven by the Neptunes' punctuated beats) was too imaginative to get played alongside the cookie-cutter R&B coquettes of the day. On the other hand, Kelis's innovative sound was too sophisticated and street-smart for pop radio. But while Kaleidoscope floundered stateside, it became an instant smash overseas, spawning three Top 40 hits ("Caught Out There," "Good Stuff" and "Get Along With You"), in addition to nabbing the Brit trophy for Best International Newcomer, the Q statue for Best Video ("Caught Out There") and the NME prize for Best R&B Singer. Backed by an all-girl eight-piece band, Kelis bolstered her international fame by putting together a galvanizing live show, in which she subverted expectations with her electrifying rendition of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
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