It ain't R&B, nor is it neo or hip-hop soul. In fact, it very well could be the case that hip-hop is too narrow a category…but it isn't. It is hip-hop. Kelis Was Here, the third release from the bossy lady, is not only one of the best albums of the last few years, but is a glance into the thoughts, values, and decay of American society and into the imminent future of hip-hop music. For a minor few, that is an unwelcome prediction, but for the great bulk of us, it is undeniably promising.
Why? Because, for one, it is an instance of hip-hop realizing a higher plateau of universality instead of the regionally-limited and categorical subgenres which have been a necessary aspect of hip-hop's historical development. Kelis' new album is hopeful in the sense that it is struggling to break down these categories and encompass a larger totality; a larger whole, i.e. a hip-hop we can all relate to whether we hail from the Midwest, South, East, or West. It has the agility to touch on all fronts, neo soul, R&B, rock, etc., but all within the attitude, the style, the slang, the vernacular of hip-hop.
Secondly, our age is incredibly political and so any artistic manifestation of such a political society, like the album in question, will be unwaveringly opposed to the repression of our individuality, creative capacities, and to work as something which dominates working people instead of the opposite.
Sure, the detractors will say, in unadulterated Trotskyist rage, that Kelis Was Here is pure hip-pop; a mechanical, corporate schism aimed at "distracting" us from our everyday struggles, but in fact, it is quite the opposite. "Weekend", produced by will.i.am, is a characteristically American song about the mundane routines of work and our desire to escape. Nothing is more genuine and socialist—I mean, honest.
The Scott Storch-produced "Trilogy" is a familiar, Hall and Oates-inspired, cosmic ballad about an idyllic love affair, easily one of the climaxes of this manifold sonicscape.
"Blindfold Me", lead by a spellbinding synth and which sees Kelis screaming, "When he want it, he blindfolds me, then I get sexy on him, get sexy on him/", will stand out as a solid, primary cut. And why not? Sexuality was taboo in this country far too long.
Kelis's new album has to live up to more than my prescriptions, more than the critics opinions, more than the conservative hater's hatin', and even more than the next few weeks of album sales. The true measure of any American classic is its historical reception and the changes it endures over the years.
Will history vindicate Kelis Was Here? Who fucking cares. The shit is hot right now, so enjoy the moment.
"All through the week, I've been at work, doing my job, somebody told me the weekend's just for me"