Metaphor Master

R. Kelly is content to hop back on his one-trick pony.

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 6, 2009

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Photo by Alex Fine

R. Kelly is just fucking with you now.

He wants to feel on your booty and have sex in the kitchen ... over by the stove ... on the counter ... by the buttered rolls. He’s a genre figurehead: an R&B thug, the Pied Piper of R&B and the “R” in R&B who wants to love you like a real freak should while keeping it on the down-low.

But there’s another side to him, one he’s been increasingly ignoring over the years. He’s a Christian, torn between what he believes to be right and what his body craves. Sometimes the skin wins. When it does, he asks heaven for a hug.

Shit is complicated. Back to Genesis.

If the ’70s were the golden age of R&B and soul (they were), then the ’80s were littered with its dead and dusty bones. The Reagan era took the soul out of soul. Listen to most contributions to the genre made during that time, and you’ll find horribly thin keyboard templates, boxed drums with no punch and synthetic horns. Urban youths were busy painting a new hip-hop horizon and couldn’t be bothered to resuscitate R&B’s suppurating corpse.

What R&B needed was a dust-up, and Kelly came complete with a Swiffer and a bottle of Pledge. In 1992, the slick Chi-town ladies man picked up Prince’s “Darling Nikki” ball and ran with it, helping to perfect the art of the fuck jam. 

Where earlier references to sex in music tended to be shrouded in innuendo (save for the Dolemite fringes), Kelly pulled back the covers to expose a carnality so explicit, many of his early performances were stopped by the authorities. Songs like “Sex Me” and “Bump N’ Grind” made Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” seem subtle. Even Barry White was white-bread next to this guy.

But where his early work suggested he might be a sexually charged one-trick pony, often Kelly would give us a dose of the other side of his tormented soul, successfully playing both sides of his tormented psyche against one another. Songs like “I Wish,” “A Woman’s Threat” and “When a Woman’s Fed Up” showed that this was a man equally adept at cranking out sophisticated, emotionally wrought mid-tempo fits of conscience alongside all those bone-happy club bangers. On top of that, Kelly began penning tunes for an impressive array of diverse artists—Celine Dion, Ginuwine, Janet and Michael Jackson, B2K and the Isley Brothers among them.

Now, it seems, he’s content to get back on that pony, and this time he’s riding it full speed into the Valley of the Absurd. 

His last full length, Double Up , was basically a comedy album. Peep some of the album’s lyrics.

On “Sweet Tooth,” Kelly floods the senses with many candy-filled cunnilingus metaphors. The song’s chorus: “Got a sweet tooth for you girl/ Baby I’m tempted to taste/ Can’t wait to drink your milk/ You lookin’ like a big ole piece of cake/ I’m all up in your middle/ Ooh it tastes like Skittles.” 

And the many typical lines coloring the verses go about like this: “Now that I got you on the bed, clothes off, lyin’ next to me/ Girl I’m about to give myself a cavity/ Plus I need band-aids for my knees/ Girl set the table now let me feast/ Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream.”

On “The Zoo,” Kelly mines an old standby, imagining sex so uninhibited and raw, it turns the two engaged in the act into animals. He howls like a monkey, and describes a “jungle atmosphere” where he is lion and king. Plus this: “I got you so wet, it’s like a rain forest/ Like Jurassic Park, except I’m a Sexasaurus.”

There’s also “Sex Planet,” wherein Kelly ... aw, shit, just read: “I’m about to twinkle it and touch your soul/ Once I enter into your black holllllle.” And “Girl I promise this will be painless/ we’ll take a trip to planet Uranus.”

Still more: “I guarantee you’ll like it/ It’ll take your breath away/ Gonna get you so excited/ Once I taste your milky way.” 

The w.hole album’s like this basically—R. Kelly trying to outdo Dave Chappelle’s “Piss On You” in an attempt to spoof himself. And it’s hilarious. What’s more, it’s daring. Because, you’ll remember, Kelly’s the Roman Polanski of R&B, charged (and acquitted) of 14 charges of child pornography stemming from a sexually explicit videotape he made with an underage girl ... who, yes, he peed on. Like O.J Simpson’s book If I Did It , most of R. Kelly’s work post-accusation has been brazen. 

Which reminds me of another lyric, also from “Sex Planet”: “And if time allow us/ We’ll be gone for hours/ I won’t stop until I give you meteor showers.”

And another, from the remix of Raheem Devaughn’s “Customer,” where Kelly sings, “And shorty if you’re thirsty/ I’ve got some good, good lemonade.”

Kelly’s laid relatively low since Double Up , and conspicuously off the radar since his acquittal. That all changes with the release of Untitled on Oct. 13, on the same day he brings his bumpin’ and grindin’ live show to the Tower Theater. 

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