Q&A: R. Kelly Says Freaky ‘Black Panties’ LP Is An Ode To Public Sex, Strip Clubs

Features

/ November 14, 2013

Either R. Kelly is putting on his best chest-beating, I’m-the-baddest-man-on-the-planet façade or the R&B veteran is feeling epically confident about his upcoming December album release Black Panties. Or maybe Kelly is just mentally in a damn good place. The singer-songwriter-producer has been gleefully picking his spots as of late. One moment he’s hopping on a track with electro French rock band Phoenix (“Trying To Be Cool”) and then pulling off a high profile collaboration with Lady Gaga (“Do What U Want”), and the next he’s jumping on a raunchy Bruno Mars remix alongside resurrected song-and-dance man Pharrell (“Gorilla”).

Yep, these days it’s good to be Robert Sylvester Kelly. VIBE caught up with the singer to discuss, among other topics, the making of his most x-rated and cocksure effort to date, Black Panties, as well as his reinvention into an unlikely indie rock music festival savant. Buckle up. —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)

VIBE: You seemed to be going to another place in the recording studio. It was almost like you were being taken back to the Chicago PJ’s, taken back to playing in the L stations. It was almost as if people were not even there. Is that what goes through your mind when you are getting heavy into the music?
R. Kelly: Well, [people] are never really there when I perform. When I’m performing, I call that the homie ghost. I was just feeling it and it was getting to that point. It’s just like any preacher that preaches the word. When he starts to really feel what it is that he’s preaching about, he takes on that other spirit. I was just tapped in, man, because I’m loving the work that I’ve done. I’ve done all my homework and now it’s time to play.

One of the new songs “Leg Shaking,” which features Ludacris, has a very big, sweeping Michael Jackson feel to it. What were you trying to achieve with that record? Was the spirit of MJ in the room with you?
Absolutely. But what I was also trying to do with “Leg Shaking,” and the entire Black Panties, I want to represent the strip club with this album. But I don’t want to just represent it in its ratchetness. I want it to be ratchet, but classy. So “Leg Shaking” is that classic, ratchet, sexual song, if you will. But you got that little Michael Jackson feel on it. It mixes with the R. Kelly, and I think that’s what adds the classy feel to it, so it can be here forever.

There are certain parts of “Cookie” that are so over-the-top. I think, “This dude has jokes.” When you are writing some of these x-rated lyrics do you sit back and say, “This shit is crazy?”
Yeah, I do [laughs]. When I’m doing my music it’s like I’m sitting up there getting high off of it. I’m smoking it and I’m taking it in. I’m inhaling, I’m exhaling, and now I’m starting to feel some type of way. So with “Cookie” and all of the metaphors, even back to “You Remind Me Of My Jeep,” and lyrics like “Stick the key in the ignition…lick it in the middle…” The whole nine…but when you take those funny things and the metaphors, and mix them all together, and make it into a great melody, and it comes out like that, that’s the gift. Some people are talented and some people are gifted. I know how to take those little metaphors and mix them all up and then it comes out into a song. It’s no different than “Feeling On Your Booty.” It becomes somewhat comedic, but sexual.

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