It would seem that out of all 12 albums R Kelly has dropped, the hype surrounding ‘Black Panties’ has been the most illegitimate. Back in the days of late 90s to early 00s, when RnB reigned over MTV (and soundtracks of basketball/ Looney Toons crossover movies), Kelly was in his musical element. His sounds were generally appreciated as valuable to the genre, with unforgettable hits such as ‘I Believe I can Fly’ and ‘Worlds Greatest’ securing Kelly's credibility as a cheesy but all the same talented artist and hit-maker. However, with the aid of a certain video tape, and numerous musical sagas involving midgets and cherry allergies (chapter 9), all combined with the ever decreasing popularity of his distinctly uncool and overtly sexual brand of RnB; the name R Kelly is nowadays used solely as mockery.
This shouldn't however, in theory, take away from the man's ability. His feature contribution to 'To The World' on G.O.O.D Music's ‘Cruel Summer’ last year, promised good things. ‘Cruel Summer’ was present day. It's production was new and Kelly most likely had little input. So when he was left to his own creative devices with ‘Black Panties’ the product sounds extremely dated. Every song has the same slowed down feel, and if not totally concentrating, one might mistake the entire album as an extended play of guys making up realistic R. Kelly songs at parties as a kind of party-trick.
Something that spruces the experience up slightly, are the ridiculously crude lyrics. If ever there was a wrong album to pack on a family car trip, this would be it. It's as though, R Kelly is going through a late puberty with lyrics following the general pattern of “I love pussy and pussy love me” or ”You gon' wanna claim this dick”. From the offset it appears almost Lil B esque, as if Kelly had outsmarted those mocking him and was actually profiting from the joke. 18 songs later, and you discover R Kelly isn't joking, and that he's as serious as ever.
In some ways, Kelly staying true to what he's always done is refreshing, that he continues to enjoy the music he did 15 years ago. By the end of ‘Black Panties’ it’s impossible to tell where R Kelly is at in 2013. He needn’t ‘sell out’ because, truth be told, very few people would want in. The likelihood is, he will continue to make LPs like this. Albums that are R Kelly being R Kelly for the amusement on the blogosphere, the pocket of ladies that would still give said ‘panties’ up for him and, well, himself I suppose.
Words: Julian Caldwell