This Sunday Classic 105’s Maina Kageni takes us down the road with award-winning musician and record producer R Kelly.
Born on the South Side of Chicago to a single mother, Kelly dropped out of high school to earn a living singing on street corners for money.
He got his first real musical break in 1990, when he formed the R&B group Public Announcement. The group released just one album together, 1990’s Born Into the 90s, before Kelly departed to start his solo career.
He was successful almost instantly: in 1993, he released the album 12 Play, which spawned the chart-topping singles “Bump ‘n’ Grind” and “I Like the Crotch on You” and established early his reputation for slow-moving sex jams loaded with innuendo.
Kelly’s next chart success was not his own. In 1994, he was introduced to a young R&B singer named Aaliyah by her uncle, and went on to write and produce her debut, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number. The album was a success, selling over two million copies and spawning a wealth of hit singles.
R. Kelly Reveals His Weirdest Fan Story & Speaks On Today’s State Of R&B
The above interview was conducted on HOT 97
Kelly returned his attention to his music the following year, releasing a self-titled album that went on to sell four million copies on the strength of the hits “You Remind Me of Something” and “Down Low.” The album found Kelly continuing in his chosen milieu of simmering R&B ballads — a form he perfected the following year with the release of his biggest single to that point, “I Believe I Can Fly.” Unlike many of Kelly’s previous singles, the song transcended genre boundaries, becoming just as ubiquitous on pop radio as it was on R&B, eventually climbing to the Number Two slot on the Billboard Top 200. The song also marked a thematic change for Kelly, one that found him moving away from pillow talk and into more inspirational subject matter.
Kelly’s massive success was beginning to earn him the respect of more popular artists; in 1995, he wrote and produced “You Are Not Alone” for Michael Jackson and his 1998 double-album, R., found him singing alongside none other than adult-contemporary queen Celine Dion on the song “I Am Your Angel.” Like his idol Marvin Gaye before him, Kelly was proving an asset not only as a vocalist, but as a songwriter and producer for other artists, and as his stature grew, so did his opportunities for collaboration. R. was another huge hit, selling 8 million copies, and his collaboration with Dion would surpass even “I Believe I Can Fly,” netting him a number one single.
The following year, he released TP-2.com, an album that was more modest in scope than its predecessor but no less accomplished in its songwriting.
It was’t until 2003 that he pulled fully out of his downward spiral with the release of Chocolate Factory, arguably his masterpiece. The album found Kelly moving past the simple stylings of contemporary R&B to incorporate Chicago’s step music as well as elements of 1970s soul. Bolstered by the phenomenal success of “Igniition (Remix),” the album did more to re-establish Kelly in the public’s good graces than any amount of official statements from the artist or his management. Kelly followed that album with another artistic triumph, the double-album Happy People/U Saved Me. It is here that Kelly fully indulges his love of classic soul and gospel, delivering tracks reminiscent of late-period Marvin Gaye, going light on the raunch in favor of simple songs of praise and celebration.
In 2004, he embarked on a tour with Jay-Z in support of a sequel to their Best of Both Worlds album, but the collaboration came to an abrupt end
In 2005, Kelly accomplished his most outlandish — and, by most accounts, spectacular — feat to date, the multi-part “Trapped in the Closet” series. The saga sprung from humble beginnings: a simple three-part soapy song-drama on Kelly’s TP.3 Reloaded album. The song was so giddily outlandish, however, that Kelly soon started adding more chapters, each one more ridiculous than the last.
After an early internet leak of his intended 12 Play: Fourth Quarter, Kelly went back to the studio and soon released an entirely different, untitled album in 2009, which dropped many of the leaked tracks and replaced them with new compositions.
Courtesy Rollingstone magazine
Watcha video below of Jay Z and R Kelly in a press oncference about their collabo, courtesy Genius of R Kelly;