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; were also aware of the many tales that allege Kelly slept with underage girls. (And, yes, that infamous videotape, too.) But hes 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 youre guilty of something truly, truly heinous like, say, dog fighting youre not above redemption. So, many would point to Kellys musical genius for the reason hes 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 Back R. Kellys 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 todays era of contemporary music, even if it doesnt exhibit the so-called genius that has thus far served as Kellys 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 seasons most popular song at King of Diamonds that is, until its 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 theres Genius, a slinky throwback slow jam thats 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. Its so insistent, youd almost be forgiven to think Nabisco paid him for product placement. (And in case youre 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 womans holy of holies is sweat-drenchingly palpable. Its 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.
Marry The Pussy
Legs Shakin (feat. Ludacris)