R. Kelly: Still Number One

The controversy surrounding R. Kelly is still a sensitive issue for many people. With a very public arrest haunting him, most people wondered whether such an influential musical icon would be able to shake off the stigma to win back fans and return to the top where his slow, sexual grooves once dominated. Like him, […]

The controversy surrounding R. Kelly is still a sensitive issue for many people. With a very public arrest haunting him, most people wondered whether such an influential musical icon would be able to shake off the stigma to win back fans and return to the top where his slow, sexual grooves once dominated.

Like him, love him or loathe him, R. Kelly’s musical genius is undeniable, and his fans are loyal to him. His latest album TP3 Reloaded is his fifth #1 album to date, and has catapulted the urban soap series “Trapped in the Closet” to critical acclaim. His ability to continue making a range of music from Gospel to sex-driven tunes, and his daring musical evolution to try new sounds such as Dancehall and Reggaeton, prove R. Kelly is not bothered by public conviction. Instead, he is musically invincible.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives recently participated in a roundtable discussion with the Grammy-winner, who has made quite a comeback from a negative situation that could have potentially destroyed his career. Building on a musical legacy that includes classics such as “I Believe I Can Fly”, “Bump ‘n Grind” and “Feelin’ on Yo Booty”, R.Kelly has continued to create music which is just as juicy as his real life drama – and the new album is no exception.

[Questions asked by AHHA are noted, while questions asked by other journalists in the roundtable are marked as Q]

Q: Did you every worry that doing “Trapped in the Closet” like that – that it would take away from the rest of the album?

R. Kelly: After I completed “Trapped in the Closet” – well, the first five chapters, anyway – that question came to mind but then the answer to it was that I felt really confident in the TP3 Reloaded album. All of the songs that were there felt really good to me. And I thought people would see them both sort of separated, and “Trapped In The Closet” would be a hell of a bonus to everybody, something for them to see, whereas the album would be something for them to hear.

Q: Being that the “Trapped in the Closet” series was so dramatic and cinematic; do you have any plans to maybe spin it off into a feature-length film or a stage play?

R. Kelly: Well that’s exactly what we’re in the process of doing right now. We’re auditioning and casting people for a major play, and also “Trapped in the Closet” has definitely been scripted out for a movie. So, that’s what we’re working on right now as we speak.

Q: What can fans expect from chapters six through to twelve?

R. Kelly: We just shot the movie to chapters six through to twelve, and we’re editing it right now. It will be up to the company pretty much when it will come out, but it’s another level up from five, I can tell you that!

Q: You have quite a work ethic. Are you finally at a point in your career where you feel like you’ve made it?

R. Kelly: I feel really good right now, for the first time more than ever, with my music and with my writing. I’m really comfortable with my writing. I think I’ve found my niche in the way I want to write, which are real stories and real songs. But I don’t think I’ve arrived yet. I think there are other places that I want to go with this music, with writing and everything.

Q: Your last album focused a lot more on spirituality and family. What made you return to bolder and more sexually charged material on this album? Did you feel more comfortable making this type of album?

R. Kelly: Well first of all, I wouldn’t say I returned to the sexual songs, because it’s something I’ve never left. A real, true writer is going to write from everyday life experiences. It’s no different than a director making movies. They aren’t going to make the same movie every time they make a movie. They’re going to branch out and do other types of movies, and that’s the way I want people to see me. I want them to see me as a different writer, a guy that will write a gospel album, something for the world to feel good about or whatever, but then he’s going to write a party record or a sexual record. I’m very versatile so there’s no reason to limit myself by just writing one type of music.

Q: What was the motivation behind R. Kelly doing Reggaeton?

R. Kelly: Well, first of all, I never do my music depending on how many fans I can get or anything like that. I just love doing music. I’m very versatile when it comes to music. I go to clubs, so I’m very close to the streets, and when music starts to change in the club and it’s something that I like, I say, “Wow, I want to do a song like this!”. I love, love Reggaeton and I love dancing to it.

Q: Are there any other types of genres that you would like to record a full album in?

R. Kelly: Yes. I just did a whole African album, a whole Jamaican album, and I just did a whole Brazilian album. I plan to put those albums out in those countries and let them go at the same time. It’s called the musical virus, and it’s designed to come out in those countries, and then the music is supposed to spread. And the reason I chose those three countries is because of the fact there’s a lot of rhythm coming out of those three countries. And spiritually, I just thought that it would work. It’s three feel-good albums and it’s very authentic. It sounds just like their music.

AHHA: Are you planning to tour for this album, and also the three albums that you were talking about, Jamaica, Brazil, Africa? Will you ever go to those countries and tour?

R. Kelly: I’m definitely going to those countries and I’m definitely planning a tour for the TP3 Reloaded album. I would say at least three months off.

AHHA: How do you choose the artists that you collaborate with?

R. Kelly: Sometimes it depends on the music I do, for instance “Bump Bump, Booty Bump” on the TP3 Reloaded album with Elephant Man. That’s just something, when I came up with it and started writing it, I just automatically heard Elephant Man on it. It’s no different than when a director comes up with a movie concept and when they cast, they try to cast the right people for that role. I really heard Elephant Man for that particular song. I called him up and sent him the song. He did it and it worked. But sometimes, people meet in clubs and they say, “Let’s do something together,” or – it can go all kind of ways. I’ve collaborated with people just through meeting them in the club, and we end up getting in the studio and doing something.

Q: Will we ever see an album with you and Ron Isley, and will you ever bring that Mr. Biggs character back?

R. Kelly: Definitely. I just did a song for Ron Isley and we were just in the studio about three weeks ago. We talk a lot on the phone. We kick it a lot, so I learned a lot from him. We’re definitely talking about doing a whole Down Low album and it’s going to be something like the “Trapped in the Closet” thing, but it’s definitely bringing the “Down Low” situation back, because I know we left a lot of people hanging. A lot of people wanted to hear more from that.

Q: When it comes to your live show, are you concerned about the arrangement of the Gospel influenced songs and sex-inspired songs?

R. Kelly: No, I’m never concerned about stuff like that. Most of the times, people will get too caught up into R. Kelly singing a sexual song or singing a Gospel song. I come to bring reality to people, and sometimes reality hurts.

Because of sex, we’re here – because somebody made love, that’s the reason we’re here. However they made love or whatever they did, we’re here, and it’s like the reality of that is what it is. So I don’t have a problem with singing a sexual song and then turning around and showing people where I would really rather be. A lot of people go to church, and come out, and light up a cigarette. There are a lot of people that go to church, and they come out, and they go to their lover’s house. But the fact that they go to church and the fact they even are trying to better themselves, you need to get some kind of balance in life.

What I’m trying to bring is a balance to this thing, so people won’t think that R. Kelly is just about sex and don’t know how to write no other songs. And I think I’ve proven that over the years. I had to write “I Believe I Can Fly” to be able to show people that I’m not just about the sex songs.

Q: Are there any words directly that you want to send out to your millions of fans?

R. Kelly: Oh, of course. I love my fans, and I thank my fans for sticking with R. Kelly, and believing in me and buying my music for all of these years and still keeping me number one. And when I celebrate, I celebrate with my fans because of the fact that, without them, nobody would know me. I wouldn’t be doing these interviews. Artists go through a lot of things, but the fans paid attention to the music and they stuck. They kept with the music and now we’re back on top. When I say I’m number one, I say me and my fans are on top, and we’re at number one, because we did it together. Nobody else.