R. Kelly

R. Kelly

Sex has always been a major theme in pop music. However, how sex has manifested has been an ongoing process. Singer and songwriter Robert "R." Kelly was largely responsible for placing sex on an explicit pedestal in R&B and pop music in the '90s and '00s. And depending on perspective brought the genres to their ultimate heights or depths.

The Chicago-native began performing first as a child busker, then later as a member of the group R. Kelly and MGM. With this group he won the $100,000 grand prize on the television talent show Big Break in 1989. Soon after he left the group to form Public Announcement. This group released its debut album, Born Into The '90s, in 1992. The album featured several new-jack swing and slow jam ballads that became radio staples, particularly "She's Got That Vibe" and "Honey Love." Kelly again broke from the group and released a solo album in 1993. The resulting 12 Play featured several chart-topping hit singles, including "Bump n'Grind," "Your Body's Calling" and "Sex Me." However, the album as a whole (with song titles like "Freak Dat Body" and "I Like The Crotch On You") established his repertoire of sex anthems.


In 1994 he produced the debut album of teen R&B singer Aaliyah. He also became embroiled in controversy when a marriage certificate with the names of the two singers was publicly circulated. The marriage was annulled and the two singers denied the authenticity of the certificate. Soon after, in 1996, Kelly experienced the complete inverse: one of the biggest hits of his life. The single "I Believe I Can Fly" from the soundtrack to the movie Space Jam reached No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts and won three Grammy awards.

From the late '90s to the early '00s Kelly found success by crossing-over between hip-hop and R&B. His 2000 album,, included "Fiesta," which featured Jay-Z. The two later collaborated in 2002 on the album and subsequent tour Best Of Both Worlds. However around the same time a videotape allegedly of Kelly having sex with a minor was circulated and led to scandal and criminal charges. Kelly still released an album in 2003 called Chocolate Factory during his trial. The album still went double platinum. And Kelly was acquitted of all charges.

In 2004 Kelly attempted to come back from his media fall-out by reuniting with Jay-Z for another joint album and tour called Unfinished Business. However, tensions led to the dissolution of the tour midway through completion. In 2006, a former employee filed a lawsuit against Kelly. In 2007 he released his eighth album, Double Up, but the subsequent tour led to another lawsuit. In 2009 he released another album, titled Untitled. Throughout he has remained consistent to his blend of club hip-hop and coarse bedroom jams (e.g., "Bangin' the Headboard"). ~Dan Nishimoto

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