Kelis, best known for her 2003 hit “Milkshake” — and more recently, her painful, public divorce from Nas — takes a whole new tack with her new dance album, Flesh Tone: disco queen. Vulture caught up with the 30-year-old mother to talk about her new album, baby Knight, and how now — post-pregnancy and post-divorce — it’s all about love.
Describe the sound of Flesh Tone.
I think Flesh Tone is made up of a continuous thought, from beginning to end. It’s a summertime, feel-good record — really melodic. I think it’s equally strong in melody and lyrics. I think it’s just a continuous thought.
Tell us about the process behind the album.
I was pregnant for the majority of the recording, so I was embarking on a brand-new time in my life. I was figuratively and literally filled with life. I felt really free and extremely beautiful. Everything just flowed, everything came out the way I thought: clearly. It [pregnancy] made me feel really comfortable in my creativity.
Have you noticed a new following owing to the dance sound of this album?
I never had hip-hop followers, R&B followers. No matter what I do, they understand music the way I understand music and they gravitate towards that. I don’t think I have a new following at all.
There seems to be sentiments of letting go of love within your lyrics. Did you use this album to do so? Let go of a love?
No, not at all. This album is about embracing love and reveling in it and realizing how God is and how amazing life is. It’s actually the complete opposite.
Was Flesh Tone an outlet for what you were going through with Nas?
At the time, being pregnant was the most prevalent in my life, and second was my record. That wasn’t a factor, it hasn’t been.
What lessons have you learned from being a mother and marriage?
Being a mother is amazing. It is truly one of the greatest gifts. I don’t think enough women share with each other just how it’s such a gift. You’re just in awe, every day, with these little creatures. It literally takes my breath away, every day. Marriage is amazing; it’s beautiful. It’s a union; it’s not just romantic, it’s powerful. I love marriage.
Do you currently date?
I do. For a 30-year-old woman, it’s normal life stuff to do …
Are you looking for love?
I’m not looking for anything.
Do you find yourself being more cautious with press and projects now that you’re a mother?
Not at all. I think that would imply that I’m not proud and have something to be ashamed of, which I do not. I think when you have a child, you’ll realize that you want to show them everything, you want to share with them everything. Every bit that you are. You’re like, “I want him to know me.” I don’t want him to know some fake manifesto of what I think I should be, which is warped and ridiculous — I want him to know me. I am a creative person, this is who I am; my career is the core of me, it’s how I express myself, how I view the world [and] how my mind works. And as the person who raises him, who birthed him, who loves him, I want him to see that. I don’t feel the need to change anything.
What are some things new fans will learn of Kelis after a few rotations of Flesh Tone?
I’m extremely human. I have a full range of emotions, I don’t make apologies for myself. This is who I am; it’s not dictated or created. I’m comfortable in my own skin.
Did you go into Flesh Tone telling yourself to do or not do something specific?
I wasn’t signed when I recorded. It’s just me on this album. There’s no politics, no business; I didn’t compromise once, at all. I wasn’t asked to. It’s really my album. There was no A&R or label head I had to answer to. It was just about me saying, “This is what I want to do” and being comfortable in that place.
Would you say this was the most creative you’ve been?
I think it was the most focused, because I didn’t have any outside distractions, confusions, or opinions. I woke up in the morning, [went] to my studio, and wrote. There was no interference.