VIBE: What does genius mean to R. Kelly?
R. Kelly: That’s a hard question, man. But I don’t consider myself a genius. When I think of musical geniuses, I think of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Prince. That’s who comes to mind.
Your high school music teacher Lena McLin pushed you to sing Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky” during a talent show. And the legend goes you received thunderous applause. Was this the moment you realized you wanted to become a professional singer?
That sealed the deal! That was Peter Parker being bit by the spider [laughs]. That was my first time feeling the love from a crowd, like 500 kids in an auditorium standing up and screaming. I’m like, “What? Who is behind me?” [Laughs]
How did being a struggling songwriter who performed on the Chicago L train station shape the hitmaker you’d eventually become?
It was a struggle, but it helped me to have a strong voice because singing over L’s and how loud they were [laughs]. You had to be a strong singer.
You once said in a 1998 interview, “I’ve been boxed with one style of music. I want to show people that I’m a global writer and I can do “Half on a Baby” and turn around and do “I Believe I Can Fly.” Can you talk about your musical range?
My talent is more than just sexual songs. There was a time I desperately needed for the world to know that I was no category guy. My whole goal in life was to reach that certain success where people will say, “Hey, that guy can do anything. He’s the Evel Knievel of music. He’s jumping over 15 buses!”
NEXT: R. Kelly talks writing for Michael Jackson >>>