On Nas’s Life Is Good, a kind of ode to Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, Nas overflows on his relationship with Kelis. He and the award-winning R&B star were in love as much as lovers seemed they could be, constantly canoodling with one another.
Even their first meeting in ’02 was spiritual: “Everyone moves out of the way, and Nas stands up, and I put my hand out, and I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m Kelis,'” she told Vibe. “And he goes, ‘Who?’… So I’m crawling into a f**king hole, and he’s like, ‘Wait-huh? What’s your name? And I’m like, ‘Kelis,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, well that’s great, because I’ve been waiting to make you my wife all these years.'”
Either that was Nas’s game or it was the height of Queensbridge romanticism. Soon they were married, wedded to each other in a way that most couples can only dream. Almost immediately after they officially sequestered together, things began to fall apart. This is after the green chiffon dream dress Kelis wore to the ceremony at Morningside Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia and after their single, “In Public.”
Things finally rounded to a close in 2009 with the Hip-Hop divorce of our generation. They both seemed shipwrecked for it, but men are allowed to turn their grief into dollars in a way that women are not. Now, all that is behind them — everything except the bruises.
Kelis has come out and said that Nas was violent toward her. He’d get blackout drunk and wake up with no recollection of the night before leaving Kelis to keep their secret — that’s over now.
In an hour-plus long interview with Hollywood Unlocked, Kelis found time to untether herself from the enormous gravity of the legacy of the person who created Illmatic, allowing us to take a peek backstage. Many of us will look at the interview as some sort of broken window into Nas’s tortured soul instead of what it is: A woman telling a story about a man she loved who hit her repeatedly.
They were young and infatuated with each other. She describes her marriage with Nas as “[not] good ever, but it progressively got worse.”
“[We were good] when the money was rolling in,” she said. “We had really intense highs and really intense lows. It was never normal.”
Next to come was the infidelity, which she knew was happening for two years. But it was the other moments, the hitting and the forgetting that were bringing their affair to a boil.
“He drank too much. He drank way too much, and he’ll never admit it.”
Kelis describes partying with Nas, long nights of drinking and hand-to-hand combat then Nas waking up the next day like nothing ever happened. She’s been holding all this for nine years, all the while Nas has spoken on the relationship specifically in an entire body of art. It’s so tiring, the kind of one-sided redemption of Jay Z’s 4:44 and Nas’s Life Is Good. It’s so monotonous, the caring over the inner thoughts of men after they’ve been redeemed by their partner or not — after they’ve committed their crimes.
What struck me most about the interview was her timing. She waited until after the trumpets of the #MeToo movement had died down. This is Kelis. She could have spoken to New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, The New York Times — she could have had anyone pen her story. It could have been an exorcism of the Nasir Jones brand and past. It could have been an undoing. Yet, instead, she sits clutching her hands together with Hollywood Unlocked and thumbing her slender fingers while recounting their relationship.
She insists she never just sat there and took a beating; that she fought back most times. Instead, though, we are left with the reality tha no man — not the preeminent conscious emcee of our generation or most likely anyone else— is immune from treating the women they love as though they do not; As a possession instead of a person. No ideology or general set of principles is enough to stop a man, famous or no, from exercising his bloody birthright, which is that of the patriarchy. Some don’t, at least not physically, but most never escape.
“I remember after the Rihanna pictures came out after her thing with Chris Brown, and I remember thinking it was like double-dutch,” she said. “Do I jump in? Because I had bruises all over my body at that point. Like that day.”
She didn’t — ultimately, this low-key interview was itself an act of love. Maybe, for Nas, it was her final one.