December 10, 2013

R. Kelly Releases New Album 'Black Panties' Amid Controversy

Is this what a 46 year old man does?
R. Kelly’s Coming Back (…And We Can’t Let This Happen)
by DAMON YOUNG VerySmartBrothas.com

Full disclosure: It has never been hard for me.

Often, when people write and/or talk about why they don’t/can’t support R. Kelly anymore, it’s prefaced with a sentence or a paragraph or an entire constitution about their ambivalence. Basically, despite their knowledge of his sordid (and criminal) sexual history, it’s difficult for them to completely stop listening to him because they enjoyed (or still currently enjoy) the R-uh’s music so much.

They eventually do it. But, as Akiba Soloman acknowledged in her piece at Colorlines, it can be a struggle.



For me, though, there has been no struggle. Not because I’m any more moral than any old R. Kelly fans. But because I’ve never been a fan.

I recognize his place in R&B, his importance, and even his musical genius. And I’ve enjoyed some of his songs. But he’s never been an artist that was necessary to me. At least to my enjoyment of music. I grew up such a hip-hop head that the only contemporary R&B that resonated with me was somewhat rap-ish. If you asked a 20 year old me to name his favorite slow jams, instead of “Your Body’s Callin” or “Till The Cops Come Knockin” I would have named “You Got Me” or “Sweet Love.” (Or maybe “Renee” if I was in a bad mood.)

So, after watching the tape—which, all things considered, is up there with The Passion of the Christ and “2 Girls, 1 Cup” on the list of “Things You Only Watch One Time“—and combining that visual confirmation of his thing for underage girls with the already prevalent rumors of his thing for underage girls and his “marriage” to Aaliyah, deciding not to f*ck with R. Kelly anymore was an easy decision to make. It was like me deciding not to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anymore. Sure, I’ve eaten them before. And sure, they can taste good. But, if someone told me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches caused herpes or mouth gout or something, I’d have no problem completely removing them from my life.

Anyway, I’m bringing this all up because, although he’s been off-the-radar for some time, R. Kelly seems poised to return to pop culture relevancy as a Mike Tyson-esque, “he’s so weird and absurd that he’s…cool” type of character. Two weeks ago, he performed with Lady Gaga at the AMA’s. In the last week, I’ve read two separate fawning reviews of his new album, Black Panties. One surfaced on Jezebel, made no mention of his past, and was roundly criticized in their comments. (The Colorlines’ piece reference earlier was also a response to the Jezebel piece.)

Another came from one of my favorite writers, Grantland’s Wesley Morris. Like most of Morris’s work, the review was an enjoyable read. And, to his credit, he did mention Kelly’s history. But while I understand a critic’s need to recognize a work on its artistic merit instead of the artist’s actions, when it comes to R. Kelly, it just doesn’t feel…right.

This read continues at VerySmartBrothas.com


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