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Kelis Says Pushing Forward With Ideas That Others Don't Agree With Is The Secret To Success

The creative reminded us that you should never give up on the dream just because other people weren't given your vision.

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The best part about being slept on is having the opportunity to wake motherf*ckers up, and Kelis is just the person to help us do it. The 40-year-old mother-of-two recently sat down with i-Dand reminded us that you should never give up on the dream just because other people weren't given your vision.

Kaleidoscope broke barriers when it was originally released in 1999 and our girl officially became the first girl to scream on a track, and twenty years later, Kelis reflected on the success of her debut album and what it meant to Black girls everywhere:

"The funny thing is, 'Kaleidoscope' doesn't fit in anywhere. It literally cemented me into musical history forever and I know that. It changed my life and the life of music for that era, because it made it so that black girls could look different and sound different and be different. It became about the artistry because it had to. Everybody understood that it had to live somewhere… I'd rather be critically acclaimed because it's so off, rather than having everyone like you right now and tomorrow they don't know who you are. I don't need that. This is perfect for my personality. It just works out this way because this is who I am."

The singer explained that at the time, although she had a sound that she vehemently believed in, records execs thought differently; but this didn't stop her from creating, even if it took the world a little longer to catch on. We can all learn a thing or two about owning your shit from the "Milkshake" singer, who says that she stands tall in her work, whether she sells two albums or two million.

Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

"If I have an idea that's good, and I know when it's good, no one will agree with me. So every time, I'll do it and everyone's like, 'She's the weird one, there she goes again, why are you doing that when this is totally not like the record you did before?' I always say, 'I promise, everyone's going to want to be doing this.' It's literally two years, every single time."

The singer also emphasized the importance of making collaborators pay what they owe, friends or not. Kelis explained that despite any success that she had on her projects, she didn't see a dime of the profits. After releasing her music, she later learned that The Neptunes and her record label would retain all of her royalties:

"Fast-forward 10 years and I didn't think for one second, did I get paid for that? Were they fair to me? Did they give me what they said they were going to give me? Someone might argue that I was wrong, since I didn't ask the right questions. It's not a new story, it happens all the time. Unfortunately, it happens to women a lot, it happens to black artists a lot."

Thanks to the unlimited access to information that exists in the digital age, it makes it much harder for record companies to swindle young artists, but for Kelis, her financial mistake has to live on a lesson learned.

"We were Star Trak. I was Star Trak for life. I was like, this is what it is, this is fun. It was supposed to mean something. And then to find out later it meant nothing and was just the same old rhetoric and rigmarole that we're always hearing about, that it was essentially a modern-day Motown? Yeah, you're freaking amazing and you're talented and interesting, and you have nothing, because you didn't know to ask for anything. Whose fault is that?"

To read the full interview, click here!

Featured image by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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