July 29, 2013

Kellz. This is his story and he’s sticking to it. At least, with certain parts expurgated. In reality, most people only know the more outlandish exaggerated parts of Robert Sylvester’s life. The classic albums. The secret marriage with Aaliyah. The grist for Dave Chappelle skits. But when he says he came from the Chitown dirt to sleeping in Versace shirts, it’s not exaggeration. If you never read his interview with Will Oldham , it’s probably one of the best bits of music journalism of the last five years. Even if you have read it, it’s worth memorizing.

There’s the story of how Kellz accidentally discovered that he could make tons of money busking in the Chicago subways. He describes how the first day he made $50 in a few hours and tried to treat his friends to Giordano’s before being turned away for ostensibly being broke street kids (they were eventually allowed in once Kelly flashed the money). There’s the story about his Sam Cooke costume party. His love of gift bags and Back to the Future. It is almost as good as a Gray’s Sports Almanac.

I don’t know if I would put his new “My Story” single on that level, but it’s very strong. Versace continues to have the best year product placement since Cracker Jack got slipped into “Take Me Out of the Ballgame.” There is no actual need for 2 Chainz on this song, other than to capitalize on the fact that 2 Chainz is on every rap single over the last 18 months of radio rotation. (I was going to make a joke about how he was on “Gangnam Style” and then I realized he was).

It is Kellz being Kellz, which means that he is better than any singer in the world. And has probably been since 12 Play. I am also intrigued by the idea that there are clubs open till 6 a.m., where Kells doesn’t even walk in until 3. There are guys who have been buying drinks for girls all night, but Kells cuts right in line. He is Kells and as he once decreed, if you’re going to bring your girl to the club, make sure that your game is tight and you trust her. In summary, if you love soul music, it’s almost impossible to like R Kelly ironically. It doesn’t excuse his bad behavior for a second. But when you hear him sing, it makes you temporarily forget every awful thing you know about him and start bobbing your head and doing awkward pelvic thrusts, and trying to find someone (of age) to take behind the toll booth to impregnate. And even if he has never seen an episode of 30 Rock, I feel he would get the joke.

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