Kelis Had No Idea 'Milkshake' Would Become a Massive Success — but She Trusted It Would Spark Change (Exclusive)

"It changed the rhythm and cadence of how we did things, especially as female artists," the artist and chef tells PEOPLE

Twenty years later, Kelis' "Milkshake" continues to bring the fans to the yard.

In light of her partnership with Lactaid on the "It's Dairy" campaign and the 20th anniversary of the catchy track, the artist and chef reflected on how far "Milkshake" has comes since its release in 2003.

"It's really cool to be able to talk about it now because it's one of those things that when people see something successful, they just assume that it's always been successful or that it's always been easy," Kelis, 44, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "'Milkshake' was a record that when I decided to make it my single and put it out, we couldn't get radio to play it. There was nothing else like it at the time."

"If you look at music the year prior to that versus music to the year after that, it's completely different. It changed the course of music for women and for hip-hop, R&B, it was a real merging in a way that we hadn't seen before. It changed the rhythm and the cadence of how we did things, especially as female artists."

Related: Kelis Reflects on Her 25-Year-Long Career and Maintaining Positivity Through Grief: 'I'm Grateful'

The "Bossy" singer concludes, "We didn't look this way. We didn't sound this way. And so it's iconic now, but at the time, it was rebellious and it was important. It made a difference."

Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the song, which Kelis released as her first single from her third studio album Tasty.

"I had no idea that it would be big for my career. You can only really understand something like that in retrospect," she says. "At the time you're just like, 'This is who I am right now and this is what I'm doing, and this matters because I feel like this is right.' And my sentiment was not so much about what it would look like 20 years from now, but it was more like, 'This is important. This is who I am, and I want people to look at female artists a certain way, and I want to be a part of that.'"

<p>Michael Simon</p> Kelis on set with Lactaid

Michael Simon

Kelis on set with Lactaid

In the Lactaid campaign video, Kelis put a spin on "Milkshake" by changing up the lyrics. By doing so, the milkshake queen wants viewers to know they can enjoy a milkshake made with real dairy — and without the stomach discomfort. (Kelis loves a chocolate milkshake with lactose-free whipped cream.)

"My milkshake is the talk of the town/Made with Lactaid/The best taste around," she sings to the catchy tune. "It's dairy/And I'm totally down."

Over the years, the song has been featured in several iconic moments in films like 2004's Mean Girls, 2004's Dodgeball and 2013's Identity Theft.

"You have no idea how great the movie's going to be [when you approve it]. You have no idea really what role you're going to play in it, how it's going to be presented, how it's going to be received," she says. "Sometimes it's a really funny moment, sometimes it really signifies this era, which for Mean Girls, it really did."

Related: Kelis Explains How Her Husband's Death Impacted Her Wellness Journey a Year Later: 'I Want to Live Well'

"Milkshake" also made it's way to TikTok — and her kids brought the resurgence to her attention. (Kelis has three kids, sons Knight, 14, Shepherd, 7, and daughter Galilee, 2.)

"My kids will hang out with their friends, and one day, I guess Milkshake was No. 1 on TikTok, and my son's best friend was like, 'That's your mom? She sings that song? It's No. 1 on TikTok.' And my son didn't even know," she recalls. "He was like, 'It is? That's crazy.' He's like, 'Mama, did you know?' And I was like, 'I didn't know. No idea.' It's just great that it's become this multi-generational thing."

Kelis adds, "It's dope to see that it's stood the test of time."

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