Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

R. KELLY: DOUBLE TALK

R. Kelly
R. Kelly R. Kelly R. Kelly R. Kelly

God help any crazy stalker with intentions to get to R Kelly; theyテ「囘 have their work cut out.テつ This man has more schedule changes than aテつlow-cost airline bound for Ibiza. テ「廬 do hate to do interviews,テ「 heテつ tells me later when we finally meet. No shit Kellz?

The first timeテつweテ「决e supposed to convene, after several proposed dates have alreadyテつbeen postponed - Iテ「冦 literally about to board the plane at Gatwickテつwhen the phone call comes - テ「廬tテ「冱 off,テ「 Iテ「冦 told. Both Kelly and I hadテつ been en-route to Las Vegas where he was to attend an internationalテつpress junket, host a playback of his new album テ「魯ouble Upテ「 and performテつat a conference for his record label bosses. However, halfway betweenテつ his hometown of Chicago and Sin City, he heard about the VirginiaテつTech massacre and was compelled to turn the bus round so he could go backテつhome and write a song. The result, out this August, was テ「漏ise Upテ「 aテつ typically schmaltzy key-changing R. Kelly affair, in the vein ofテつ テ「路eaven I Need a Hugテ「 and テ「露 Believe I Can Flyテ「: テ「弩e will cryテつ together, weテ「冤l fight this together/ Weテ「冤l be strong together, standテつtogether, pray together...テ「 And so on.

Anyway, after a couple more tries, I finally make it toテつChi-Town, the city where he was born, raised and continues to resideテつtoday. Iテ「况e already been asked to submit my questions, none of which, of course,テつmust mention his ongoing legal situation relating to the 14 counts ofテつchild pornography that he was first charged with back in 2002. I mustテつalso not ask about his wife (they separated after she accused him ofテつ domestic abuse), Jay-Z (well, we all know about that one), hisテつ brother Carey (he claims Robert offered him $50,000 and a recordテつ contract to take the fall for the sex tapes), Sparkle (she told an LAテつradio station that the girl in the tapes that featured the man thatテつ bears very close resemblance to R Kelly, is her niece) and finallyテつAaliyah - again, pretty self-explanatory given the whole underageテつmarriage thing. I did consider wearing my Aaliyah T-shirt to the interview,テつbut thought better of it.

16 years in the game, and, as the album says, the R isテつready to テ「賄ouble upテ「 again. テ「弋he title can mean a million things; youテつhave the basketball reference, the gambling connotation,テ「 he smilesテつbehind pitch-black shades. テ「廴y coach used to tell me, when youテ「决e upテつ20, you need to play like youテ「决e down 20. I told you I feel hungrier than Iテ「况eテつever been, and it's true, so I feel itテ「冱 time for me to do it all over again... let's do another 16 years. Iテ「况e no plans to retire, Iテ「冦 on top of my gameテつright now.テ「 Heテ「冱 not exaggerating either. Two weeks after our meeting,テつhis 14th solo album enters the American Billboards at No.1 and the UKテつcharts at number 10; he sells 400,000 in the US alone in one week. Givenテつthe current climate of the music industry, this is incrediblyテつimpressive. And, one of two duds aside, the album is indeed worth theテつmoney. There are club bangers, a couple of slowies and someテつfantastically odd tracks like テ「狼he Zoo テ「和nd テ「牢ex Planetテ「: テ「廬 got youテつso wet, itテ「冱 like a rain-forest/ Like Jurassic Park except Iテ「冦 yaテつsexosaurus.テ「 he wails on テ「狼he Zooテ「 with its テ「楼hh-ohh-ah-ah-ahテ「凖つmonkey-mimicking chorus, while the latter makes Carry On-style references to テ「話lack holesテ「 and テ「篭ranus.テ「 Is he, for want of a better phrase, taking the piss? テ「弸a know, I sometimes feel like people take what Iテつwrite a little too seriously, but I do think that I have a lot of humour in myテつ music,テ「 chuckles the 6テ「1 singer who really got back in the game afterテつreleasing the hilarious テ「狼rapped In The Closetテ「 series last year. テ「廬テつwant people to laugh, because itテ「冱 like Iテ「冦 a musical comedian onテつsome songs. Anybody that gets that, I can really appreciate, becauseテつit makes it fun. I believe thatテ「冱 why people listen to, and love, R.テつKellyテ「冱 work, because there are a lot of goodies in the lyrics.テ「

Today though, heテ「冱 more interested in discussing theテつsong テ「漏eal Talkテ「. An invective-laden one-way conversation betweenテつKelly and a girlfriend, the track is particularly timely given theテつ ongoing argument between people like Oprah Winfrey and 50 Cent aboutテつthe appropriateness of artists using the テ「朗テ「, bitch and ho words. This is something Robert Sylvester Kelly feels strongly about. Inテつfact, he spends about a third of our 24-minute conversation tellingテつme just why he should be free to use whatever words he pleases.

テ「廸umber one, Iテ「冦 a grown man. Itテ「冱 a reality and thatテつreality is actually much worse than テ「漏eal Talkテ「. We have got toテつrealise that this is the real world; there are no aliens down here.テつWeテ「决e all human; everybody, or most people, have had that argument, Iテつfeel. They didnテ「冲 try to mute their words while they was arguing;テつthey didnテ「冲 put they hand over they mouth at the time they wanted toテつcurse. These things have gone on in cars, on phones, in drive-throughs and in movie theatres. Iテ「况e experienced it, I know a lot ofテつ people that have too, even the ones that donテ「冲 approve of it.テ「

The track features Kellyテ「冱 jealous girlfriend accusing him ofテつcheating before threatening to leave him: テ「廝itch, I wish you wouldテつburn my motherfucking clothesテ「 he shouts in the middle of the track.テつBut is there need for such a large amount of profanity, Kellz? テ「廬テつ didnテ「冲 just go into the studio and say テ「露 know, today Iテ「冤l write aテつ curse song; bitch, slut, bitch, n*gga, ho.テ「 I donテ「冲 do that,テ「 heテつ argues. テ「廬 go in with a creative mind and spirit and I let creativityテつcome to me, I donテ「冲 chase it. Iテ「冦 a grown man and I realise in thisテつworld that words are exchanged, even when weテ「决e not writing a song orテつmaking a movie.テ「

He seems particularly annoyed that films and videogamesテつdonテ「冲 get given the same censorious treatment. And let's be real, itテつis always rappers and R&B singers (that's black artists) who seem to getテつthe stick, right? テ「廣bsolutely, I agree with that. Thatテ「冱 real talk,テつthatテ「冱 the way it is," he offers animatedly. "If they can say it in movie theatres, and onテつtalk shows, why should I stop? You can have kids playing games whereテつtheyテ「决e doing all types of stuff. Yet, Iテ「冦 only expressing myself andテつmy freedom of speech in my own, creative way. Why is it such a no-no,テ「 he wonders rhetorically, warming to his subject now. テ「廴y situation is, or should be,テつno different from the movies you see, I simply express life. I think if Iテつcanテ「冲 use the word 'shit', nobody should be able to use the word 'shit'テつ because Iテ「冦 40 and Iテ「冦 a grown man. I feel if that canテ「冲 be used in aテつsong, then it canテ「冲 be used in a movie 'cos the way I grew up, thatテ「冱テつ called unfair. And my mom taught me that, so if youテ「决e trying toテつteach me different at 40, youテ「决e disrespecting everything my mom hasテつtaught me from a kid on up, and Iテ「冦 not gonna allow you to disrespectテつmy momma with all the hard work she put in on raising me.テ「

So, heテ「冱 feeling good, right? "Honestly,テ「 he concludes. テ「廬 feel like Iテ「冦 in a media minefield, so I just keep my butt in theテつ studio. Being in the studio is almost like taking a vacation for me. As my kids grow up, I want them to be proud of me. If I can be in theテつ game like Ron Isley here, then Iテ「冦 good.テ「 And with that, R Kelly andテつ his mate Ron depart. Itテ「冱 time to return to hit-making.

テ「魯ouble Upテ「 is out now.
The single テ「漏ise Upテ「 is out in August.

YOU CAN READ A FULL VERSION OF THIS INTERVIEW IN THE NEW ISSUE OF B&S (999)...
Words Hattie Collins

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