In a rare interview, Kelis, 38, discussed her relationship with Nas, which lasted from the early 2000s until their divorce in 2009. The two are currently in the middle of a nasty custody battle over their son, Knight.
Kelis told Lee the relationship was toxic and very volatile, especially since the two were both regularly attending red carpet events and parties as famous artists.
“We had really intense highs and really intense lows,” she said, adding later, “It was dark, it was really dark. There was a lot of drinking, a lot of just mental and physical abuse.”
When Lee asked Kelis to specify what she meant by physical abuse, she responded: “We would fight. I never like just sat there, but we would definitely fight. Did he hit me? Mhmm. Did I hit him back? Mhmm.”
Nas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kelis recalled seeing the photos of singer Rihanna’s face in 2009 when her then-boyfriend, R&B artist Chris Brown, beat her up. Kelis, who was married to Nas at the time, said she remembers contemplating coming out publicly about Nas’ abuse then.
It was like double dutch. Like I felt like, do I jump in? Do I say it? Because I had bruises all over my body at that time.Kelis
“I remember so clearly when the pictures came out with that whole thing that happened with her and Chris Brown and the only way I can describe it was like double dutch. Like I felt like, do I jump in? Do I say it?” she said. “Because I had bruises all over my body at that time. Like that day.”
Kelis said she was sitting in her kitchen in Atlanta trying to figure out if she should say something.
“I wasn’t ready to walk, I just wasn’t. So I didn’t say it. Honestly ’cause I’m not weak … I’m really private, I don’t like people in my business. I felt like this is my partner, I chose this, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna make it work. I stayed for years after that,” Kelis said.
“Seeing her, the way she looked and then looking at myself I was embarrassed,” she added. “I was appalled, I was embarrassed.”
Kelis said she didn’t leave Nas until she was pregnant with her son Knight. She said she realized she couldn’t bring a baby into such an abusive environment.
“I didn’t say anything [then] because I wanted things to work,” she said. “And because I was delusional and because I thought I could love past this.”
Watch the full interview below.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.