Ok I will open with a disclaimer stating how I unequivocally do not condone or support R. Kelly’s publicized abuses towards young women. Like Marvin, Sam Cooke, and Al Green R.kelly’s talent is intimately connected to his twisted psyche. R kelly is a man whose soul is tortured and mangled as he trys to navigate the tension between his gospel roots and his more hedonistic self-destructive tendencies. In the same breath R .kelly will sings praises to God while professing a bizarre bent towards a twisted sexual hedonism. He can be gritty without being over the top, he can be very affectionate and intimate without seeming whiney and corny. He peddles an R&B thats filled with gospel type levity and earthly sinfulness. To me his greatest strengths are found in his ability to compose sultry ballads that don’t feel cheap and cheesy. He is also equally adept at writing narrative driven conceptual songs, packed with interesting antagonists and protagonists. For the irony loving crowd these songs are a source of much humor. Since he came out as a member of New Jack swing group Public Announcement Kelly went from an Aaron Hall wannabe to the 90′s supreme king of R&B. His penmanship and compositional skills helped start the careers of Aaliyah and Sparkle and he even wrote a song for Celine Dion for Gods sake. So i am attempting to pick those R kelly songs that where sign posts in my life.
.1. Womans threat
Womans threat is a conceptual masterpiece and really plays to Kellys strengths. His ability to pack tension and menace into songs without getting too verbose. His singing is too the point and has no excessive frills.
2. You remind me of something
Again smart witty song writing and interesting composition make this one of his greatest uses of Puns and metaphors ever. He takes two things modern human beings love which are cars and sex.
3. To the homies that we lost
Kelly took quintessentially rap themes of life, death and religious redemption. Mr kelly took these themes and created church thug songs that contemplated death in poignant and unpretentious ways.
4. Step in the name of love
This is a summer black family BBQ standard. Its stands alongside Frankie, Beverly & Maze and the isley brothers as a grown folks black people anthem. Its a song that regardless of age people can connect to this song. Its not raucous or over the top. It celebrates good times in an inclusive way.
5. Happy People
Another step music classic much in the same vain as step in the name of love. In happy people and on this album in general he manages to create joyful black music. Music that celebrates life without all the excessive baggage of mysogny, hyper masculinity and drug use that riddle hip hop sometimes.
6. Bump N Grind (old school remix)
My girl loves the shit out of this song. I can’t deny it though its infectious. R Kelly comes into R&B at a time when Guy where running R&B and the gritty bounce of new jack swing was running things. Kelly initially follows the mold with his first band Public announcement and then when he gets greater command of his sound he begins to create an R&B sound thats gritty but also has some instrumental flourishes that allowed it to sound melodically more sophisticated than new jack swing. And this song kinda opens the floodgates for the sound that underscored Aaliyah’s first album and R Kellys opus 12 Play.
7. I believe I can fly
Again another gospel infused epic. Kelly’s ability to tap into grand emotional tones is truly flexed on this song. I believe i can fly literally had me running around with my arms outstretched in our back yard, in south central Africa. This song had you believing you could concur the world and thats Kelly’s songwriting and compositional skills at work.
8. Age aint nothing but a number
This is an Aaliyah song with an undeniable R.kelly imprint. Sweet breezy melodies with nice warm baselines. Then her vocals sly, self-assured but still useful suggesting an idea that after knowledge of what was happening behind the scenes, is very edgy. Aaliyah in a sense was the female articulation of his whole style. She made R&B that was soft and sultry but always had a very present hip-hop edge.
9. Time to move on
Sparkle’s album is an often forgotten 90′s R&B classic. The song time to move on lifts a Eddie Kendrick sample thats so beautifully utilized in this song that I gotta give Kelly credit for flipping it. His awareness of R&B history is always present in his song choices. In this song he also handles the songwriting and its a well executed female lament about an inadequate love that needs to be ended.
This was one of those songs that went H.A.M when I was in high school. It was during a period when R kelly was dropping these productions for people like Tyrese, Joe, and Ciara. His sound had evolved it had changed and I loved his productions for those acts. But Clubbing killed it. I would say I prefer “Fiesta” over this but Clubbing made us hit the dace floor a whole lot harder than ‘Fiesta”