R.Kelly’s government name is Robert Sylvester Kelly but over the last 20 years, critics, peers and fans have given him several other names. From the “Pied Piper of R&B” to the “King of R&B” and “Kells,” Billboard’s most successful R&B artist of the last 20 years has earned each of them.
As soon as the R&B legend first stepped on the moon of rhythm & blues in the early 90’s as the frontman of the Chicago based group, Public Announcement, he took over the music game. With the help of Public Announcement and the sounds of new-jack swing, his platinum-selling debut album “Born into the 90’s” sparked several hits such as “She Got That Vibe,” “Honey Love” and “Dedicated” – which all became top-ten’s on the R&B chart.
However, the Chi-town native didn’t formally introduce himself until the release of his first solo album “12 Play.” At that time, there weren’t any other male R&B artist being as sexually blunt as R.Kelly. Therefore he created his own lane for baby-making music with the 1993 release. With tracks like “You’re Body’s Callin,” “It Seems Like You’re Ready” and “Bump N Grind” the Pied Piper of R&B knew how to speak to his female audience while he schooled the fellas.
Now 20 years after the release of his innovative solo debut, the “Freak Dat Body” crooner serves fans “Black Panties” — an album he calls “the new 12 Play.”
Kells wastes no time diving into his sexual stew of 13-tracks with the album’s opening number “Legs Shakin’ ” featuring Ludacris. Produced by 1500 or Nothin, the “Write Me Back” artist swears his taser tongue will make any special lady quiver until she reaches her explosive climax. Meanwhile, DTP’s own Ludacris co-signs Kells as he spits confident bars on eating his woman’s treasure box like Kibbles ‘n Bits.
“I love to lick the middle like an Oreo/Turn up/I want to bite it and get inside it til I get you gone,” coos the self-proclaimed cookie monster on track-two “Cookie.” Produced by Team Green, the “Sweet Tooth” artist skips dipping his ladies sugary snack in milk and breaks into her chocolate shell to feed his appetite with her sweet cream filling.
Following “Cookie,” R.Kelly channels his inner thespian on a comical three-minute prelude where he plays himself, a chick named Brenda and dude named PJ. While, the “Double Up” crooner thought he was calling the latter to tell him about his plan to propose to a special girl, he hears all the chaos from PJ and his latest piece of ass.
Stirring through the two T-Town produced tunes “Throw This Money On You” and “You Deserve Better,” we taste test the sexual stew at “Marry the P*ssy.” Before making his “sex proposal,” the “Number One” artist croons the joys of his ladies hot pocket as he promises to make it happy by all means.
The Albert Einstein of love-making scores an IQ over 140 in the bedroom, declaring himself as a sex “Genius” — “Nothing like the ordinary, I’mma love wonder/but tonight you’re lying with a sex genius.” Next, R. Kelly recruits R&B’s sex kitten, Kelly Rowland for his risky duet “All The Way” where the two say the hell with the bedroom’s rulebook as they attempt to make their passion last for only “a moment, a minute, an hour or just one night.”
“This is my story, yeah, I’m from that Chi-town dirt/I went from being broke to sleeping in Versace shirts”sings the Chi-Town native on his lead single and top-ten R&B hit “My Story” featuring 2 Chainz. Produced by Paul Jefferies, the autobiographical track finds Kells sharing his life story of growing up in Chicago to becoming an R&B legend.
Turning the stove eye down through the homies anthem “Right Back,” the DJ Mustard beat “Spend That” featuring Jeezy and “Crazy Sex,” we finish the sexual stew known as “Black Panties” with standout track “Shut Up.”
Released first in 2011 after his throat surgery, the “I Believe I Can Fly” artist addressed the tsunami of rumors made after his serious surgery — from the all naysayers who said he was washed up to the false stories made by the media ( losing his home) and even those who tried to pass Kells crown to the other artist (Trey Songz).
After listening to “Black Panties” in its entirety, there were a few memorable moments along with some I wish I could forget. First, I appreciate Kells keeping up with the current sounds of R&B music as he reinvented himself with his twelfth album. However, at the same time, I feel like he tried too hard to channel his male counterparts of today’s era — namely Trey Songz. Records like “Spend That” and “Marry the P*ssy” (where he said the word p*ssy over 50 times) are songs that shouldn’t be in the archive of R. Kelly at this stage in his career. The direction he started with “Love Letter” should be the road he continues. While it may not bring in the sales or grab the attention of today’s generation, the fact of the matter is your generation should and always be your target audience. Cater to them.
The tunes “Genius” and “All The Way” featuring Kelly Rowland were two other memorable moments from the LP . Since R&B veteran decided to create a “new 12 play” album, I believe these two tracks appear to fall in line with the lyrical content and vibe of the 1993 release.
With “12 Play” it wasn’t overly explicit as far as its lyrical vocabulary, however, for that day and time it was especially in R&B music. Meanwhile, “Black Panties” is the complete opposite. A parental advisory sticker alone isn’t enough of a warning for some of the un-godly language featured on most of the tracks. Nonetheless, it may appeal to a younger crowd but his core audience may not be too thrilled to hear those records in concert; let alone their cd players.
Lastly, the autotune was a bit much for my taste especially since I know Kells is a vocal beast. But again, it will attract generation Z who listen to the likes of rapper Future.
All in all, if you’re a hardcore R.Kelly fan who was expecting a sequel to his “12 Play” album, prepared to be disappointed because those PG-13 days are over. “Black Panties” is ALL X-rated.
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
3 Must Listens: “All The Way” ft. Kelly Rowland, “Genius” and “Shut Up”