You know, I wasn't going to write this essay. But I've received so much derision and outrage over my claims about R. Kelly that now I must respond. All of you out there would not believe the unsubstantiated, uneducated, ill-informed responses I was subjected to this weekend. But I was strong, people. I didn't play into their sick mind games. I was patient, I bided my time...until now.
R. Kelly is a genius.
gen·ius (jnys)n. pl. gen·ius·es
1 : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity
I think by this definition - which is the definition of genius - my case is easily proven. I mean, he's sold millions and millions of music that he has created. And not just one song or one album, but 15 years of songs and albums, all created by himself and no one else. I think all of you would have to agree that this qualifies as "extraordinary". My case is already made. But I know the people drinking the Hater-ade want more, so I'll give them more.
First, let's get something straight: just because someone is a musical genius doesn't mean you have to like their music. I'm sure Beethoven is a genius, but when I get in my car it's not his CD I'm booming in my system. They tell me Fellini and Bergman are geniuses, but I'd rather watch a shitty episode of Dawson's Creek. And Einstein's great and all, but I'm not really a fan of his earlier work. I found it a little derivative. So again: Genius does not necessarily equal like.
R. Kelly's first album came out in 1992. Here are some other R&B acts that have come and gone since that time: Hi-Five, Intro, SWV, Mint Condition, Jade, Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, Bobby Brown, Bell Biv Devoe, Tony Toni Tone, Guy, Aaron Hall, Tevin Campbell, Whitehead Brothers, Soul 4 Real, TLC, Total, Lauryn Hill (that's right, she's gone from all around musical dynamo racist to just baby-making racist), Jodeci, Kenny Lattimore, Boys II Men, Shai, Xscape...Sadly, I think I have all of these albums, but nevermind my sad life, that's not what we're talking about here (although we kind of are, because I'm writing a 10,000 word essay about R. Kelly, but let me deal with that in my own personal hell). You get the picture - they've all come, and they've all gone - and yet R. remains. The reason he is still around is because he writes, produces, and arranges all of his own shit. His fate is not left to any producer's hands. It's as simple as consistently producing great music for himself. If he didn't, he'd be opening for Boys II Men at the Knitting Factory this weekend.
And this is a good point to talk music producers. As I discussed earlier about Kelly Clarkson, music today is all about the producer. Here are the producers making 90 percent of the good music these days (keep in mind that I only listen to the black man's music, so I don't know about people who are white): Neptunes, Jazze Pha, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Jermaine Dupri, Kanye West, Timbaland, Tone and Poke, Cool and Dre, Hi Tek, Raphael Saadiq...I'm probably forgetting a couple people, but basically that's it. Only Dre and Jermaine Dupri have been doing it as long as R. Kelly, and I would argue both of them are geniuses as well. And I would also argue that R. has been much more prolific than Dre, and much more diverse in production than both of them.
R. Kelly has hits in R&B, hip hop, and gospel. I went to a concert and he wrote a mini-opera, and then sung it Opera style. He goes to piano bars anonymously and plays for the oblivious patrons. He writes and produces huge hits for other artists. He had the most top ten singles in America during the 90's. He's got lots of Grammys. I'm not going to bore you with his individual albums, of which there are 10, 2 of which are double albums, or the albums he has written and produced for other people, Aaliyah and Ron Isley to name two, but let's just say the man never stops working.
The "rape" thing. You cannot discuss this guy without talking about this whole "rape" or "peeing" thing. Okay. I'm not saying that the man is without his eccentricities. Hey, I like a good urination as much as the next guy, but not when people around, I tend to get stage fright. But just because R. doesn't seem to get stage fright like I do, doesn't mean he's not a genius. In fact, they backup my claim. Geniuses are weird. Geniuses are extremely fucked up. Geniuses cannot be normal members of our society. They are different than us, freakishly so. They cannot be expected to play within what is considered normal for us. I mean check out the head of hair on Einstein! You think that was a popular look in the '30's and '40's? I don't think so. These guys don't settle down, get married, have children, buy a house with a white picket fence, punch a clock, do their genius, and then punch out and call it a life. It doesn't work that way. And let's be clear: the girls in the R. Kelly videos were more than willing participants. I know it doesn't make it right, it's still wrong, but it's not AS wrong as unwilling participants - I think we can agree with that. Roman Polanski brutally sodomized a 14 year old girl...and then won the Oscar and got a standing ovation - not for the sodomy, for directing a movie.
But all in all, I don't think R.'s trouble with the law has any bearing on whether or not he's a genius. He's a genius because of the music. 15 years and going strong. And if all of my arguments haven't won you over, then you are clearly a cold and bitter person unwilling to shed your inhibitions and delight in the pure joy that is Bump N' Grind, The Remix. If you are one of these people, then this is my last ditch effort to convince you:
Go to the store and pick up the "Happy People" album. Listen to disc one. Try not to like it. I guarantee you, you will not be able to resist. And when you finally succumb to the genius of that particular album, I will happily welcome you aboard the R. Kelly train.