Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The saga of the 18th Letter:

I can remember when R. Kelly first came out—spring of 1992 (Born Into the 90's), I remember seeing him appear with Donnie Simpson on BET’s Video Soul (Donnie, where ya at?); I liked the “She’s got that vibe” single, so I picked up the cassette at a local store. Good stuff overall, and clearly influenced by Teddy Riley’s then-ubiquitous New Jack Swing sound. I was more into the uptempo tunes, where Kelly actually rapped on several cuts. His MC skills were adequate, though not spectacular. But I’m thinking that “Dedicated” and “Slow Jam” became the big hits off that LP, so 1993’s 12-Play became almost exclusively ballad-driven (feh!). “Your Body’s Callin’” was cool, though. his 1995 self-titled LP continued the trend, and he seemed to settle into his own sound that didn’t sound like a Guy clone. “You remind me” voiced some weird metaphors “you remind me of my jeep…. You remind me of my credit card/I wanna spend you baby..”
The whole Aaliyah debacle was loony. Her first album was good, though.. And I didn’t know until his indictment that he had quietly gotten married to someone else. At least she’s a grown-up. Kelly’s ‘R” LP from ’97 was pretty good, though as a double CD, it was kind of filler-heavy. 1999’s TP-2.com was a more cohesive effort (featuring, of course, “Feelin’ on yo Booty”; I can only imagine what radio stations went through fielding those requests), and I’m thinking this is when he started doing the album with Jay-Z. the scandal torched sales for that one. I haven’t peeped that one yet, but I’ll get around to it, there are bound to be copies on Ebay and other used CD sites.
When he came out with “I Believe I Can Fly” and the song with Celine Dion, I thought he might be going in a more ‘mature’ soul/pop direction, like Lionel Richie, but it seems right after that was when he started getting heavy into hip-hop collaborations. It’s kind of like what Priest said about Whitney Houston—the desire for ‘street credibility’ often overwhelms business sense for contemporary R&B performers.
What I’m really surprised at is the fact that Kelly has chosen to maintain a relatively high profile throughout this situation. Still doing colorful, flamboyant videos, performing at spot dates, each of which have to be cleared by the presiding judge in the case. He’s certainly he’s not lacking work as a producer and songwriter; he did the whole last LP by the Isley Bros. (why do they insist on being billed as ‘The Isley Bros. featuring Ron Isley.. I mean, there’s only two of them left!). He should be more low-key. But apparently, Kelly’s lawyer(s) must have little influence on him, and/or are content to just accept checks; I mean, while facing the charges he’s facing, how can he come out with songs about “girl you wanna come to my hotel.. we got room keys” (with rapper Cassidy), or “I’m a gigolo, spendin’ lots of dough..” (with actor/teen idol Nick Cannon).
At least Thomas Mesereau seems to have had a good talk with Mike Jax about no more lateness to hearings and impromptu dance shows afterwards; and hopefully the trend of wearing conservative suits in public will continue.. ditch the costumes! I guess we’ll have until September to see the drama unfold; I wonder if the TV rights have been sold yet?
Even aside from this forthcoming LP, Kelly apparently plans on doing another collaborative hip-hop album, this time with metal-mouthed (I can’t tell if its steel or platinum) New Orleans rapper/CEO Brian ‘Baby-Birdman’ Williams of Cash Money Records.. I wonder what those awful metal caps looks like when somebody gets old… But at least the guy did have the sense to sign Teena Marie to a deal; her new song, “Still in Love” is pretty tight, and the LP’s gotten good reviews… I think she’s on tour with Cameo, the Isleys, and Rick James.

No comments: