In a recent interview with The Guardian, Kelis revealed that The Neptunes, a producing duo made up of Pharrell and Chad Hugo, stole the profits and publishing from her first two albums.
“I thought it was a beautiful and pure, creative safe space. But it ended up not being that at all,” Kelis explained. “I was told we were going to split the whole thing 33/33/33, which we didn’t do.”
The albums, 1999’s Kaleidoscope and 2001’s Wanderland, were entirely produced by The Neptunes and became the projects that helped launch her career. Kelis met Pharrell and Hugo in her late teens, where she quickly established a creative partnership and unknowingly signed contracts that handed the two producers all profits.
“Their argument is: ‘Well, you signed [the contracts].’ I’m like: ‘Yeah, I signed what I was told, and I was too young and too stupid to double-check it.’”
After switching producers for the recording of her third album, Kelis claims The Neptunes “were really offended.”
Kelis joins the never-ending list of artists taken advantage of by a music industry that preys on young musicians who don’t have the experience to defend their own creative rights. She went on to recount that she didn’t realize the lost profits for a few years because she was making money from touring “and just the fact that I wasn’t poor felt like enough.”
When asked whether she’d ever work with Pharrell again, Kelis refused to hold back.
“At that point, there’s having faith and there is also just stupidity.”
Kelis plans on touring Europe this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kaleidoscope.