In 1998, R. Kelly was ready to walk away from it all.
The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter was coming off the immense success of his R. album, which would go on to become the biggest selling work of his career (8 million copies sold in the U.S.). But professional differences between the artist and his management team nearly forced Kelly to retire from the music industry all together.
“I was dealing with serious management problems… I was at that position in that part of my career where I was being threatened to be left by my [team],” Kelly tells VIBE. Ironically, the controversial talent, who beat child pornography charges in 2008, says that it was that moment in which he felt his most vulnerable.
“I was told if I didn’t do what I was told to do that I would never sing again… or that I would be blackballed from the music industry,” Kelly continues. “I was actually believing some of that stuff.”
So what turned it all around? Kelly says that it was a Denzel Washington movie that re-energized him. “I really got inspired by the film The Hurricane (the 1999 movie that starred two-time Oscar winner Washington as falsely incarcerated boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter). I went into the studio and started working on new music for TP-2.com and [later] the Chocolate Factory. I just said, ‘You know what? I’m not going nowhere no matter who I’m with. Whatever this gift is it lives within me.’”
More than a decade later, Kelly says he’s turned the page on his turbulent past. The performer, who is working on his summer album Black Panties, says that fans can expect more the bare-bones honesty that can currently be heard on his latest work, Write Me Back.
“I’m not afraid to say I’m wrong, too,” Kelly adds. “If I hadn’t been through it then it’s not fair for me to talk about it. That would mean that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. If I’m going to write about a touchy subject like [cheating] and it affects a relationship, whether it’s breaking them up or making them up, I have to know what I’m talking about. My research is myself.” —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)
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