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Kelis “Food” – Album Review

Ninja Tune / IRIS (2014)

Her milkshake brought all the boys to the yard, so dam right, we expect her kitchen to cook up some good grub.  Our expectations don’t fall short on Food, the latest effort from Kelis. The eccentric singer and certified chef takes her music to another level of soul in her unpredictable career.  2003’s Grammy nominated Tasty was Kelis’ biggest success to date – led by club hit “Milkshake” which went gold.  In 2006, Kelis Was Here, in the form of another Grammy nominated album.  Now six albums deep, Kelis is all about her own recipe.  This concept album was literally recorded between mouthfuls of food – musicians jamming while Kelis cooked at producer Dave Sitek’s house.  First you might think, okaaay we get it with all the food-titled singles, but you might be surprised with this dramatic rock & soul menu.

First ingredient: “Jerk Ribs”.  This jam feels like it belongs in the 60’s.  Tambourine-sounding instruments, drums, and Kelis soulfully telling us, “It feels just like it should” bring a bouncy nostalgic flavor.  Love the advice from her jazz musician daddy on the verse.  Trumpets add that big movie-style soundtrack kick.  Gotta say, the second lead singer on this album is definitely the horn section.

Speaking of movie soundtracks, I swear I hear “Hooch” on some 70’s throwback film about Studio 54.  “Friday Fish Fry” also brings this kick – with some twang too!  Kelis talks over it like a country song.

Mix that up with some good lovin’ on “Breakfast,” and we’re several bites into groovy soul food.  “Floyd,” a light-airy balled, is pure slow-moving richness.  It’s is more like pie than “Cobbler”. Salt and season Kelis’ sound with some haunted sorrow and you get to where soul is born (“Runnin’,” “Change”).

Now simmer down in a total departure as Kelis pulls a Simon & Garfunkel on “Bless The Telephone”.  She also pulls Billie Holiday and Shirley Bassey out her multi-talented hat for the haunting “Dreamer”.  Perfect way to end an album.  Kelis officially breaks all musical boxes now.

And get this:  All this food talk is authentic.  After she was recently dropped from Interscope, Kelis graduated from Le Cordon Bleu culinary school.  She wrote a cookbook, and now has a TV show, Saucy & Sweet on the Cooking Channel.

Cooking was probably therapeutic after all Kelis went through with the label dispute and her public divorce from rapper Nas.  That’s probably why this album feels like it’s at peace with itself.  It’s not for a label, a high Nielsen rating, or even a Grammy.  Food is for Kelis.  And because of that devil-may-care attitude, it might end up winning all those things.  Regardless, Food is the recipe Kelis was meant to write, and the gumbo she was meant to cook – because it’s the tastiest.

4 / 5 stars     

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About the Author


Mic check 1,2,1,2. Not the words you expect to bust out of Orange County, California, but that's where Deborah Jane found her funk. Daughter of Guyanese immigrants, Deborah grew up in an all-white suburb where she was one of the only black kids in her school. (Fun fact: She didn't make her first black friend until attending Stanford University). Hip-hop gave her a voice and helped her discover her roots. Now she is an emcee and writer who both spits raps and writes editorials, TV shows and films - especially hip-hop musicals!

At Stanford, she wrote and produced an award-winning hip-hop musical, Strange Fruit: The Hip-Hopera (www.strangefruithiphopera.com) - now in development as a feature film. Deborah also launched her hip-hip theatre webseries, The HOTT (www.youtube.com/TheHOTTtv), published in Urban Cusp Magazine. Currently, she is penning her first hip-hop album, Do You Love Me Deborah Jane? And do you? She truly hopes you all love her.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Featured, R&B Music


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