Real Housewives of Atlanta Star Kris Kelli Talks “Green Card” Issues With Kandi, Her Career and More


Kris Kelli may have made her TV debut during a controversial appearance on Season 9 of “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” but the singer, born and raised in Jamaica, is not a newcomer to the entertainment business.

Kris is signed to Block Entertainment/Human Resources,. Block Ent. is owned by Atlanta veteran Russell “Block” Spencer. This season, it was revealed viewers that Block shares a child with Kandi Burruss, one of the main stars of the hit reality series, which airs weekly on Bravo.

Kris had already recorded and released tracks with artists like Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj. But Kris’ biggest exposure came as 2016 winded down, after she made the unexpected appearance on “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

Kris is involved in a “love triangle” of sorts involving Block and Kandi. Up until last season, it was not well known that Kandi’s 13-year-old daughter was fathered by Block.

Kandi has claimed Block was a deadbeat dad, but Block countered, arguing Kandi was keeping him from seeing their daughter.

This prompted a messy exchange between the pair last season, when Kris rolled up to the Kandi Factory and confronted Kandi in her office. Things got just a little messier, when Kandi made some nasty comments about Donald Trump and Kris’ being an immigrant.

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“I didn’t know there was a problem between Block and her,” Kris Kellli told “I haven’t seen her in that time. When the producers came to me and said, they kind of set me up. I’ll tell them that straight to their face. They set me up, because they called me a whole bunch of times.?

As expected, Kandi’s comments went viral and she was eventually forced to publicly apologized for her remarks.

In this interview with, Kris Kelli discusses the backstory of the drama on Real Housewives of Atlanta, her relationship with Kandi Burruss, her upcoming mixtape “Doris Payne” and more. It has been interesting following your career trajectory, knowing that we were interviewing you, watching what you are doing and posting your music before Real Housewives. First of all, how did you start off your New Year?

Kris Kelli: Actually, I’ve been focusing on putting together and finalizing the songs for my, what I call a re-mix tape, not necessarily a mixed tape. It was a dope idea. Block came up with it. Doris Payne is really popular, especially down here in Atlanta.

When Block came to me and Block was like, “Kris, I have this idea. It would be really dope if you jack people’s records. You are not necessarily stealing them, but that’s really what you’re doing at the same time. We are going to call it Doris Payne, because she’s the known person on here right now.”

I’m like, “That’s actually a dope idea.” It’s a dope twist to be able to take people’s records and then put your own spin to it. So, how did you meet up with Block and come to sign him? You know, people are saying you are in a relationship together.

Kris Kelli: Well, we are in a relationship together, but it didn’t start off that way. When I came up here, I moved from Jamaica, six years ago, my family and I. Before I even moved, we communicated on social media, on Twitter specifically, because Instagram didn’t exist at the time.

I told him I was coming up here to Atlanta and at that time I already had a big family in Jamaica. I was already traveling, doing my thing, doing reggae music.

I knew his accomplishments already, so I knew by me coming up here, it was real business. I’ve been through the music business, especially in Jamaica and it’s really hard, especially for women. I was kind of already mentally prepared for, “Okay, you’ve got to grind, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that, for people to really take you seriously.”

Through this whole time, we just had a working relationship. We became friends, because we are around each other every day. He was learning me, I was learning him. Then it basically developed, probably, I would say, a few months after that, into a relationship. At the end of the day, it never really stopped the whole working progress.

He saw how serious I was, because even a lot of the guys that were working at the studio were like, “No, we’re not going to sleep at the studio even two nights.” I was there sleeping two weeks.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that people think that I just came on the scene like two months ago. Like, “Why’s she coming in the situation? How come?” They don’t understand that I was there, and I know Kandi very well and I was in the picture for six years. I just been under the radar, kind of just been doing music. So, my question is, do you worry about your relationship with Block ever interfering with your future business? What happens if the relationship doesn’t work?

Kris Kelli: I don’t worry about it at all, because at the end of the day, I believe God is in control of everything. You understand? When we are in the studio, the relationship aspect of it gets turned off. We turn on the work aspect of it. It’s as if we’re in two different modes, every time we’re in the studio. You understand? It’s like, when we come home, we try to know, what’s important though is you have to know when to cut it off when you’re kind of at home.

That’s the part of our relationship I treasure the most, more than even music, because if me and him were to be done on music, I want to know that Block and I still have a great respect for each other and a great friendship and a great relationship at the end of the day. It’s not even about music, I just want to make sure that the foundation is straight. So, on the last season, it was your big debut, but you were you rolling up to Kandi’s office. I have read interviews saying the whole thing was scripted. Was it scripted? Is it unscripted? Either way though, why did you decide to roll up to her office?

Kris Kelli:
Well, that part of it was scripted on the producer’s side of it. A lot of people don’t know that these reality shows, I call them scripted reality. It’s reality to a point. You see? People don’t understand that … Kandi didn’t know you were coming up?

Kris Kelli: She’s the only person that didn’t know. I was the only person that didn’t know the contention walking into the situation. The last time I saw Kandi before that, about two years before, it was at her shop. We hugged and we had a good friendship, we were cool. I’ve been to her house already, because we’ve been to her house already to visit Riley and stuff, back in the day. We were cool. When I walked in there. I had no idea, until they put the mic on me. That’s when I said to them, “Why are putting mics on me?” They told me, they were like, “We just want to see y’all interact with each other. That’s all we want to see.” So I was like, “Okay.” That’s all I said, “Okay.”

It was a scripted reality, where I knew what I was walking into seeing Kandi, but I didn’t know the situation of it being a set-up where she didn’t really mess with Block like that. I didn’t know it was that bad.

Block didn’t know, either, until we got together that evening. I said, “Block, I’m on the show. They put me on the show.” He was like, “What?” It kind of just happened, where she completely had no idea, but the producers were sitting back, watching, knowing I’m walking in. It wasn’t like as if just anybody can walk off the street and come into her shop. It’s not like that. It was a set-up on their part and they wanted to get her reaction from that. Well, they got it. They got it.

Kris Kelli: Yeah, they got it. [laughter]

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A post shared by Kandi Burruss (@kandi) You know, so she made some offensive comments about you going back to Jamaica, Donald Trump, the green card stuff, all that. But she did get burned. It’s messed up that she came out on the losing end of what was really at setup.

Kris Kelli: I was just coerced into a situation. I understand it comes with good, it comes with bad. At the same time, I didn’t know anything about what she said, until my Jamaican people attacked her about it. What was the backlash for you like? After the show aired.

Kris Kelli: Oh my God. I said to Block, that night, because we were busy recording or something that night. We weren’t even watching. I didn’t know until hundreds of people reached out to me and was like cursing her out. I said, “What happened?” I got blogs reaching out to me, saying, “What do you have to say about her apology?” I was like, “Her apology about what? What did she say?”

My Jamaican people went after her. Not just Jamaican, Caribbean people because of that statement she made. She did make an apology, public apology, after that. She shouldn’t have said what she said, obviously, but like I said, the whole situation was set-up. So my question is, how do you feel about her apology?

Kris Kelli: You know, this show was filmed in May. A lot of people take it serious, like it’s right now. A lot happened when it aired. It aired like, probably November.

We sat down and we spoke about different issues and we were cool, we hugged and it was all good. When she ended up seeing it, when it came on TV, she felt, I know she genuinely felt bad, because the last conversation we had we were cool. So, you can’t take back what you said months ago, it’s already edited.

A lot of people took it and ran with it. I’m like, “Nah, I’m not in a negative space with Kandi. We straight.” I understand the situation where she’s in a hard situation because she went through it with her dad and now she’s seeing Riley go through it and she doesn’t want Riley to go through that. I get that it’s a very sensitive topic. Do you worry about your immigration status, with Trump coming into office? I don’t think Jamaica’s in the cross-hairs of anything, but you never know.

Kris Kelli: No. I’m not worried at all, because I’m legal up here. She [Kandi] doesn’t know my status. I live here. She’s just saying that because she hears my accent and she probably assumes, because a lot of Jamaicans do have issues with their paperwork coming up here. I was never worried. So, has the appearance in Real Housewives of Atlanta helped you with what you’re doing with your music now?

Kris Kelli: Yeah, you know what? It helped. It definitely helped to put the eyes on me. For people the say, “Who is this girl? Where is she from?” Whether good or bad, I must say, it did help.

I’m not one to exploit anybody. I really wanted to showcase more of my music and even certain scenes, I can’t control what they edit and there’s a whole bunch of scenes where I was in a studio recording my single. That is what they didn’t show. You’ve already done songs wit Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross and a bunch of big people. What’s up with the album?

Kris Kelli: Yeah, I know, right? That’s what I’m excited about. I’m excited about my album because I think we’ve reached a point where my sound has been solidified. I’m the Queen of Dutty Pop and that’s just what it is. I wanted to create my own genre of music.

Dutty means dirty, for people who don’t understand. That’s me bringing my culture and bringing my world to yours. That’s why my last EP was called Third World Problems, so if people want to know what the sound of Dutty Pop is, it’s everywhere. It’s on iTunes and Spotify and Google Play and Amazon.

We don’t even have a name for the album yet. I know it’s going to hit me one day and it’s going to be a nice solid one. As I said, I’m looking forward to it. I know Rick Ross is on it for sure.

This year is the year. I’m not playing.

Listen to Kris Kelli’s new release: “Doris Payne The Mixtape.”