Robert Kelly is one of the most successful R&B artists of all-time. With over 50 million albums sold worldwide and numerous awards, he is both a critical and commercial powerhouse. In addition to his iconic career in the music industry though, he has also had many things happen that make for a checkered past.
With R. Kelly’s new album, Black Panties, making its way to the masses, AllHipHop.com takes a chronological look back at 10 weird, unusual, disturbing, and awkward experiences of his in and out of the spotlight. And while AHH in no way excuses or minimizes how Kellz and other individuals have been affected by the events in this list, R. Kelly is proof that great music can overshadow even the craziest of circumstances. (Wether or not it should is another discussion.)
Black Panties is significant because R. Kelly is an incredible musical talent, but here are some other reasons that people have been talking about the Chicago native for decades.
Childhood Abuse, circa 1975: In his 2012 autobiography, Soulacoaster, R. Kelly reveals that he was sexually molested from age 8 onward by a woman he doesn’t identify. He also says that an older man, who was a neighbor, sexually propositioned him once when he was a kid.
Marriage to Aaliyah, 1994: One of the first demonstrations of real-life weirdness in R. Kelly’s life after he became famous was his marriage to R&B singer, Aaliyah (R.I.P.). When the couple married in 1994, she was only 15 years old. While the two of them denied that they had wed, a marriage license was uncovered for the couple which was dated August 31, 1994. The document proved that they lied about Aaliyah’s age by stating she was 18. When her parents found out, the marriage was annulled.
“You Remind Me of Something,” 1995: Common set the bar pretty high for Chicago artists using metaphors with “I Used to Love H.E.R.” However, that didn’t stop Robert Kelly from doing it a year later. Considering how sexual and detailed his lyrics had been in the past (see “Sex Me Part 1 & 2”), comparing women to a jeep seemed like a step backward and sort of laughable.
Tiffany Hawkins Lawsuit, 1996: R. Kelly was sued by a woman for $10 million who claimed that she was forced to have sex with him when she was 15 and participate in group sex in order to keep being a back-up singer. In 1998, the lawsuit was reportedly settled for $250,000.
Barry Hankerson Resigns, 2000: R. Kelly’s manager Barry Hankerson resigns from that position. In a letter to Kelly’s attorney, Hankerson says that R. Kelly needs psychiatric help for his interest in underage females.
Sex Tape Controversy, 2002: While Kellz was performing at the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics and set to tour Jay Z for their Best of Both Worlds album, a tape emerged which allegedly depicted him having sex with and urinating on an underage girl. After numerous delays, the case went to court in the spring of 2008. The jury found R. Kelly not guilty on all charges.
“Hotel” Music Video, 2003: The Spanish guitars on the Swizz Beatz-produced “Hotel” are all well and good, but seeing R.Kelly in a pink Zorro mask takes it over the edge. In a little over four minutes, the brilliance and bizarreness of Robert Kelly are both on display. His technically-skilled and catchy chorus outshines Cassidy’s raps, but his look in the video has nothing to do with the content of the song. Even considering the aforementioned guitars, it’s still pretty goofy.
The Best of Both Worlds Tour, 2004: The sex tape controversy had died down a bit, Jay and Kells had both released multiplatinum solo albums, and their performance together at Hov’s “farewell” concert was outstanding. Therefore, they decided to give fans the tour that they’d first talked about two years earlier. However, at the Madison Square Garden stop of the tour, tensions boiled over between the two camps. Subsequently, R. Kelly was kicked off the tour. Lawsuits from both sides followed, but the most memorable addressing of the matter was Jay Z’s verse on the remix of Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.”
“Trapped in the Closet,” 2005-2012: This is arguably the most polarizing piece of work in R. Kelly’s catalogue. Its massive 33 chapters has been rightfully praised and parodied for its ambition and sometimes ridiculous content. For instance, the cliffhanger lyrics and ending scenes are great transitions from one chapter to another. They do coast sometimes though in terms of quality and just go for shock. For evidence, see the end of Chapter 9. “Now, pause the movie, ‘cause what I’m about to say to y’all is so damn twisted—not only is there a man in his cabinet, but the man is a midget!”
Illiteracy, 2009: He touched on it in a Vibe cover story in June 2004, but it wasn’t until 2009 that Kellz really addressed the issue while speaking at the Midwest Music Festival. He said, “I don’t even read really and I’m not afraid to say that. My cousins and brothers used to tease me ‘you can’t even read right. How you think you’re going to come up?’ The only reason I graduated from grammar school is because I had a great jump shot.”
What do you think of the Pied Piper of R&B? Share your thoughts in the comments section!