Not that it would matter to the subject of this entry, but we’re all adults here, right? Since we are, let’s all go back to a simpler time. A time before Zorro masks. A time before weird songs about being trapped in closets and midgets hiding in cupboards. A time before a nigga could sing “like two bears in the jungle makin’ looooove” and still be taken seriously. And yeah, a time before “the tape”.
Yep, there was a time when R. Kelly was my nigga.
I never liked him as much as the women did, but he was still one of my favorite R&B artists for a minute there, even during a time when I wasn’t checking for much R&B. After initially being tagged an Aaron Hall knockoff, he eventually broke out of that and spawned a number of his own imitators. Not only was he making a gang of hits, he was also writing and producing hits for others (Michael Jackson, Aaliyah, Hi-Five, Changing Faces, et al). He had the women on him of course, and he also got respect from the males who didn’t deny the quality of the songs. Sure, he always had some off-the-wall lyrics here and there, but they weren’t too ridiculous (yet).
I first saw R. Kelly & Public Announcement on BET in ’92 with “She’s Got That Vibe”, which was about as close to a new Guy song as anyone was gonna get by then. It got the ball rolling, but then he made it official with the second single “Honey Love”, followed by “Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ)” and “Dedicated”. Complete with the headset-mic hookup (with lights on the mic part!), R. was filling the void of all the New Jack Swing-era dudes who weren’t doing it on that level anymore by then. I wasn’t copping that album or anything, but I wasn’t mad at him.
Then came 12 Play, his first official solo album. Honestly, I wasn’t feelin’ his single “Sex Me”, or even “Bump N Grind” for that matter. It seemed like he was just hitting the same well over and over again. It was working for him popularity-wise, but it was “Your Body’s Callin'” that got me back on the R. Kelly train… pause. It wasn’t like the standard mid-tempo record that everyone was doing back then with the “hip-hop” beat and the hardcore posturing in the video. It was just some extra-smooth shit that had soul to it. Then, there was “Sadie”, “Seems Like You’re Ready”, the “Bump N Grind” remix… I was rollin’ with R. kinda heavy again. It continued with the ’95 R. Kelly album, with that epic “Down Low” video and “I Can’t Sleep Baby” (which I actually dedicated to someone on 92Q’s Love Zone- HA!)
Where Kelly threw me was when he started with the rampant cursing and the “rap-style singing” that unfortunately still goes on today. I was a fan of the “Hip-Hop Soul” style that had been going on, but I’ve rarely ever been a fan of singers doing things in their songs that are better left to the rappers. He’d still have a song here and there that I’d like, such as “When A Woman’s Fed Up” and some others… but by the time he’d gotten to “move your body like a snake, ma” and “Thoia-Thoing”, R. was on “this nigga is wack” status for me. And of course, the image of him taking a six-pack piss on the young’in wasn’t exactly cool either.
Just when I thought Kells had done his most ridiculous shit ever, more hilarity ensued. There’s the Best of Both Worlds albums, which are both further testaments that the self-proclaimed “R. In R&B” is not the “R. in Rap”. Then, there’s the “Trapped In The Closet” shit, which I couldn’t believe everyone thought was so ingenious. There’s also the time he ran offstage because he was high off some powerful shit thought stage crew was waving guns at him. Now, homie’s taking it there with the Autotune, and that just speaks for itself.
All in all, I’m not a “Pied Piper” fan today, but those first four/five years were alright with me. He def. played a big part (for better and worse) in ’90s R&B and the direction it continued in. Even to this day, I don’t deny his talent and capabilities. I just wish homie didn’t go on to be a big nutjob and did a lot more classic stuff and less of that ol’ other shit.