Deen is stepping in the name of drugs.
Fellow citizens of the world, Robert Sylvester Kelly is back. He really went through with it – ‘it’ being his return to his stock in trade: raunchy-ass Freak & B. Don’t get me wrong, he’s more than capable of doing whatever he wants when it comes to this singing, arranging and composing shit, but the quintessential version of R. Kelly has been on hiatus for the better part of a decade. It made logical sense for him to pull back on the prurience a bit and give the masses a chance to forget his alleged transgressions, so he released a series of really good, yet chaste albums. And when he tried to lean back into his OG persona on wax, the results were mixed at best.
Well, that bullshit is over now. Thank God. For the first time since 2002’s Chocolate Factory, Kells da Gawd actually sounds like himself on the mic. He’s essentially here to remind all of us that he kinda started this shit. As for the stuff you can’t trace back to an earlier R. Kelly album, he’s here to let us know that he’s probably better than your current favorite at that too. After hearing “Cookie” and “Tear It Up” in the build up to the album, I fully expected to hear a great album. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Black Panties succeeds beyond anyone’s expectations for an R. Kelly album in 2013.
The Pied Piper tackles every current and a few slightly dated tropes in popular black music (or is that post-black now?) and excels in every instance by indulging in his campiest and lustiest instincts. And by the time he closes the album out, he knows he’s done such a great job that he basically does the musical version of this and titles it “Shut Up.” LOL. Fucking great!
He starts the album with a trick he’s employed several times in the past, especially on his last few goody two-shoes albums — channeling one of his predecessors — in this case Michael Jackson. But while the vocal technique and production is somewhat indebted to the late, gloved genius, our current day genius subverts that shit to suit his filthy ass purposes. Who else starts an album off with a song about the female orgasm? Nobody besides R. Kelly, that’s who.
Then it’s right on to what has to be the most graphic song devoted to cunnilingus ever recorded on a major label album. Followed by a strip club romp over the kind of synths that pussy Drake would whine about missing some girl over.
But there’s more! I suspect that Mr. Kelly might consider “Marry the Pussy” and its prelude to be the centerpieces of this album, given the amount of thought he probably put into coming up with that flimsy excuse for a concept track. But who am I to question genius when it sounds this good?
The only things that even vaguely resemble missteps on ‘Black Panties’ would be the trio of songs that aren’t centered around the sex, romance or debauchery (“My Story,” “Right Back” and “Shut Up”), but they’re all so excellently executed that no one is about to complain about any of them. However, things get transcendent when the man is in wheelhouse, aggressively pleading, cajoling and bragging about the things he can do for the ladies in and outside of the bedroom. The turn-up levels on this shit are so intense that by the time Juicy J shows up on a bonus track, you kinda feel as if it’s all a bit much. But we all know that complaining about a Juicy J guest spot is the equivalent of a bosomy-blessed woman bragging about her upcoming breast reduction in public.
On the other hand, I’d like to register my complaints about Jeezy’s full bogarting of that Cali/DJ Mustard sound. The former 4-time ‘Trapper of the Year’ can’t stop tap-dancing on twinkly ass pianos anymore. I wonder if he’s still allowed to walk around in Atlanta doing this shit? Nevertheless, “Spend That” sounds amazing and you can expect to hear it at your local twerking hole in the near future.
But for my money, the best song on Black Panties is “Crazy Sex.” Over what suspiciously sounds like a Cardo beat (hey, Wikipedia is slacking on the credits) the R does the same shit he’s done a million times, but it sounds much better than it has in a long time – especially since he had the good sense to resist calling Wiz Khalifa for a guest verse to ruin these rising synths, muted cowbells, marimba and whatever the fuck else is going on.
If y’all will permit a brief aside, I’d like to vent a bit on R. Kelly’s behalf. I’ve read some shit about him being “too old at 46” to be making music like this. Oh really? I don’t know about y’all, but I plan to keep having fun until I die. Besides, thanks to modern technology it’s far more likely now that it used to be that members of different generations share pop culture interests. By a show of hands, how many of you muthafuckas watch the same bullshit reality shows your parents watch? Yeah, I thought so. That wasn’t necessarily the case when I didn’t have hair on my balls. If the man is capable of making the best version of the kind of music he pioneered, then let him cook.
Black Panties is endlessly entertaining for anyone that has ever liked and still likes classic R. Kelly. I could keep writing complimentary things about this album for days, but I’d hate to have folks thinking that I’m even more of a pervert than they already think I do. I didn’t even mention the duets with Future Franklin and Kelly Rowland and I fucking love Future Carey and Kelly Rowland!
Like the best R. Kelly albums, Black Panties succeeds by embracing camp and vulgarity with earnestness. The man knows exactly what he’s doing and he leans so hard into his basest instincts that you’re forced to accept him on his own terms. And it helps that he can actually sing – folks kinda forgot that singers are supposed to have strong voices in today’s lame ass climate where your best singers are basically rappers that ran outta ideas and into auto-tune. The only other 2013 album that sounds this fun is Juicy J’s Stay Trippy and if you know me you’ll realize that’s the highest praise possible. If middle aged debauchery could possibly be half as fun is it sounds on Black Panties then I can’t wait to be old as dirt.