Kelis’ Food: What You Need To Know
What’s the background?
When Kelis released Flesh Tone in 2010 it raised a few eyebrows owing to the fact that the singer had taken something of a new direction, turning away from her R&B roots and heading very much in the direction of the clubs, roping in producers like David Guetta, Boys Noize and Benny Benassi to help her create an album that was squarely aimed at the dancefloor.
As far back as September 2011 Kelis was talking up new material recorded with producers like Skream, Caspa and Dan Black, saying she had been heading in a direction that was ‘darker’ and ‘more electro’. However, things went sour following a dispute between Skream and Kelis, allegedly over the former refusing to allow the singer to appear in a video for their collaboration ‘Copy Cat’. Deciding to shelve the material recorded so far, Kelis went back to square one and started over.
3 years on, she’s left her deal with Interscope to sign with British indie label Ninja Tune, home of artists like Coldcut, Kid Koala and Mr. Scruff, and her new album Food takes her very much back in an R&B direction. More than that, Kelis has turned out a modern soul record, dripping with big brass, funk and swing rhythms.
Who’s producing it?
Whereas Flesh Tone employed a number of different producers, on Food the production duties are being handled solely by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, whose input has led tp a record packed with a range of influences from gospel to Afrobeat. There’s even a touch of folk on there, coming by way of a cover version of Labi Siffre’s ‘Bless The Telephone’.
What are the standout tracks?
Lead single ‘Jerk Ribs’ is one of the album’s highlights with it’s shuffling swing groove, as is its follow-up ‘Rumble’, a thudding, mid-tempo number drenched with soulful vocals and big, jazzy trumpets. Elsewhere, the lazy swing of ‘Friday Fish Fry’ brings more brass and twanging, sixties-style guitar riffs while Kelis sings in a throaty, almost crackling voice typical of the soulful tunes on this album, then there’s the Afrobeat percussion of ‘Cobbler’ and the slow jam of ‘Runnin’’ which, as with the rest of the album, exhibit a broad range of stylistic influences and showcase what a versatile artist Kelis is.
Does it deliver?
Given her recent output it can be difficult to predict what Kelis will do next, but she’s a class act with the versatility and ability to switch styles without ever seeming contrived or false. The input of Dave Sitek has obviously been beneficial to a record that, while certainly being retro-tinged, never sounds dated. This is a very modern-sounding soul record, and a damn fine one at that. It may just be her best album yet.