First Listen: R. Kelly’s ‘Black Panties’ LP Strives For Raunchy R&B’s Championship Belt

Features

/ September 9, 2013

R. Kelly walks into Atlanta’s Patchwerk Studios looking anything but inconspicuous. He is gloriously in modern R&B king mode: colorful printed shirt, red leather pants, red sneakers, a gold backpack and cigar in hand. On a lukewarm Saturday afternoon, the 46-year-old is in high spirits as he faces a packed, claustrophobic room of radio industry folks and journalists. The Chicago-born singer, songwriter, and producer is here to play tracks from his upcoming album Black Panties, a work that finds the soulful veteran returning to the raunchy, blush-inducing roots of his ‘90s work. Actually, the man has never sounded more defiantly cocksure. This is shockingly explicit stuff with pearl-clutching titles like “F-ckin’ With The Lights On,” “Show Ya Pussy” and “Girls Kissing Girls.”

“I don’t want to leave a fingerprint because it’s about to be a murder,” Kelly boasts before he launches into the ballsy release. But there is something else happening here. Mr. 12 Play has heard the doubters. To hear him tell it, the music industry has counted him out. Never mind that over the last four years R. Kelly has produced two rich, heart-stirring efforts (2010’s Love Letter and 2012’s Write Me Back) that found him tapping into the throwback ‘60s and 70’s R&B sounds first introduced to him by his beloved late mother. But when you are channeling Marvin Gaye and late ‘70s Philly soul, people are quick to bury you in the old school adult contemporary bin. Which explains why Kelly is boldly embracing today’s ratchet-or-bust brand of sounds. For a man that has survived gang violence and poverty growing up in the Windy City as well as career-threatening sex tape scandal, Black Panties is a chest-beating shot across the bow to his critics.

“I took some time to sit back and listen to what [other artists] were doing,” he later explained of re-connecting with his inner-Dionysus. “I have nothing to prove. But you can’t be a leader [without] following the people. I have taken tragedy and somehow turned it into triumph. My story is all of this: sex, money, broke, women, clubs and even church. I’m not afraid of it.” So how does that story sound? VIBE gives an early break down of R. Kelly’s bawdy Black Panties. Parental advisory? Yep, pretty much.—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

“Poetic Sex”

“The first R&B poem,” Kelly sings over a sparse piano rumble. “My music is going to make love to you…” But before you get any ideas that you are listening to a John Legend record Kelly throws out this jaw-dropping line which lets you know Black Panties will be a more X-rated bedroom affair than anything ever conceived on 12 Play. “Put that pussy on my head, that’s a fitted cap.” Alrighty then.

“Fuck Y’all” (tentative title)

Kelly targets the non-believers, haters, and girls that fronted on him when he was singing for his supper on the Chicago L train on this trap heavy, blackout track. “Now that I’m on, fuck y’all!” he sets off. So how in the world will this very blue mama-I-made-it-anthem get radio airplay? “The remix will be ‘Forget Ya’ll,’” Kelly jokes.

“You Deserve Better”

This is Black Panties’ most overtly romantic song thus far. Kells croons of saving a woman from a hurtful, dysfunctional relationship. “All I want to do is see you happy,” he tells his damsel in distress. “You Deserve Better” could have easily fit in with the Chocolate Factory’s more heartfelt, measured love songs.

CLICK THE ARROWS ABOVE FOR MORE PREVIEWED BLACK PANTIES TRACKS