Whether we like it or not, some celebrities’ crimes are overlooked because of their undeniable talent. Underage relationships have often been overlooked by many, usually as some kind of tortured artistic need that us regular folk can’t understand. Now, I’m not saying R. Kelly is the new Roman Polanski (even if Trapped in The Closet is a work of some different level of consciousness) but he is one of the best r’n’b singers of all time despite his well-publicised legal trouble.
Black Panties is a problematic album considering it’s a backwards step on the image R. Kelly had cultivated with his most recent releases Love Letter and Write Me Back. Gone is the smooth classic soul sound which highlighted R. Kelly’s incredible vocal range and returning is the less-than-subtle sexually explicit songs and lyrics. Before you even press play the album the cringe begins with song titles as classy as ‘Marry the P***y’, ‘Show Ya P***y’ and ‘Crazy Sex’. It’s incredibly hard to understand who can gain any enjoyment from a song like ‘Marry the P***y’ where Robert Kelly literally describes getting down on his knees and talking to a ladyfriend’s vagina. He seems to ignore metaphors but when he decides to employ one, he ruins what he is comparing lewd acts to forever. Eating an Oreo will never be the same again after listening to ‘Cookies’.
The opening section of the album is very weak until Kellz is saved by the back to back guest appearances of Kelly Rowland and then the inimitable 2 Chainz. ‘All The Way’ manages to escape the creepy factor that lurks on most tracks by having a female vocal and mercifully the subject drifts from sex with ‘My Story’. The guests are decent but Kellz doesn’t even command attention, there are no good songs on this album and only with ‘Shut Up’ closing the album do we see a demonstration of R. Kelly’s incredible vocals. Ironic considering the song is proving critics wrong that he can still sing after his throat surgery.
‘Spend That’ is a strange track, coming late in the album it sounds almost identical to 2 Chainz’s ‘I’m Different’. Digging a little deeper, the same producer, DJ Mustard, made both beats. Digging further still, it’s exactly the same instrumental as Uncle Murda’s ‘Do Sumthin’ which was only released in April this year. This is quite lazy production considering R. Kelly is a big name for DJ Mustard and the track isn’t redeemed by Jeezy’s guest verse. It’s all a great shame because with ‘Bump ‘n’ Grind’, ‘I Believe I Can Fly’, ‘Ignition (Remix)’, ‘I Wish’, ‘Same Girl’, ‘When A Woman Loves’ you can’t deny R.Kelly hasn’t consistently produced great music through his career but he seems to be flagging at the tender age of 46.
It’s hard to know what R.Kelly is trying to do with Black Panties. He says he wants to crack a woman’s back like a lobster and seems to regard throwing money on a lady as the highest compliment. He is contradictory and selective, I don’t expect ‘My Story’ to mention that he tried to marry a 15 year old Aaliyah or his arrest for disorderly conduct when he was blasting his own music and singing along out of his car. What I would expect is at least a nod to the sentiment of ‘I Wish’ where Kellz mentions that he would give up his wealth to spend another moment with his late mother. No time for sentiment on Black Panties, maybe it is because Kellz is getting older and this is his last desperate push to be seen as sexy before he takes up fishing, playing snooker and accepting you can’t be bumping and grinding forever.By Joni Roome