R. Kelly — Black Panties Album Review by Jay Fingers

R. Kelly — Black Panties Album Review by Jay FingersTitle: Black Panties
Artist: R. Kelly
Label: RCA
Genre(s): R&B / Hip-Hop
Released: December 10, 2013
Social: Website | Twitter | Instagram

In a recent article, The Daily Beast asked, “Why has the public forgiven R. Kelly for his sordid, predatory past?” The immediate answer would seemingly be, “Because of his musical genius.” Look, we all know the story of his marriage to Aaliyah when she was only 15 years old; we’re also aware of the many tales that allege Kelly slept with underage girls. (And, yes, that infamous videotape, too.) But he’s also a Grammy award-winning artist who has sold over 50 million records by making the sort of sexy, salacious boudoir anthems responsible for the baby boom of the late ’90s and early aughts. And the way our celebrity culture works, unless you’re guilty of something truly, truly heinous — like, say, dog fighting — you’re not above redemption. So, many would point to Kelly’s musical genius for the reason he’s maintained such goodwill.

Black Panties is, after two well-received albums of classic soul — the brilliant Love Letter and its criminally underrated, equally brilliant sequel Write Me BackR. Kelly’s return to the raunchy R&B that made his name. It aspires to be the new millennial version of 12 Play, combining bumpin’ and grindin’ with the proverbial turn up.

And, in that respect, the album is mostly successful. Black Panties is a consistently entertaining and surprisingly cohesive effort, a litany of sex anthems that afford the Pied Piper much-needed relevance in today’s era of contemporary music, even if it doesn’t exhibit the so-called genius that has thus far served as Kelly’s “get out of jail free card.”

The seductive oral sex jam “Legs Shakin’” successfully incorporates hip-hop into the mix, and features a nimble and naughty verse from Ludacris. Slow burning shake junt anthem “Throw This Money on You” will no doubt be the season’s most popular song at King of Diamonds — that is, until it’s usurped by the spacey “Tear It Up,” on which guest Future actually raps his verse instead of subjecting us to his struggle falsetto.

With an assist from 2 Chainz, Kells recounts his rags-to-riches tale on “My Story,” then goes on to play the role of Captain Save ‘Em on “You Deserve Better,” wherein he one-ups all potential suitors by promising overseas trips and rose gold jewelry. Later, he brags about the aforementioned baby boom of his creation on anti-hater track “Shut Up.” And then there’s “Genius,” a slinky throwback slow jam that’s so suave, so smooth, even actor Benedict Cumberbatch is a fan.

But, as per usual, Kelly falls victim to his own silly indulgences, and some songs come off as comical, embarrassing, or both. For instance, on “Cookies” he warbles on and on in Auto-tune how he “loves to lick the middle like an Oreo.” It’s so insistent, you’d almost be forgiven to think Nabisco paid him for product placement. (And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a “Cookie Monster” reference. How childish.) On the dull “Right Back,” Kells proclaims his loyalty to his homeboys, yet his insistence on dropping the N-word in each and every line smacks of vacuousness.

Shockingly, album centerpiece “Marry the Pussy” manages to avoid falling into this category, despite its Lil Wayne-esque lyrics (“Sex trainer/I work pussy out”). Kells’ love, his desire, for a woman’s holy of holies is sweat-drenchingly palpable. It’s equal parts carnal and romantic, lascivious and lovely.

And that, really, is the entire point of Black Panties. No one can marry the lecherous and lovelorn like R. Kelly. Though it predictably falls short of the classic status 12 Play has achieved, his latest album is a solid effort — one that just may cause yet another surge in the population.

Grade: B+

Best Tracks

“Genius”

“Marry The Pussy”

“Legs Shakin’” (feat. Ludacris)

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