It’s been a banner year for R. Kelly. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-producer is still receiving glowing praise from critics and fans for his soulful throwback album statement Write Me Back. Kells recently was chosen as one of the headliners for the buzz-heavy Pitchfork Music Festival taking place in his hometown of Chicago (June 19-21). And the 46-year-old most recently topped VIBE’s top 20 musical geniuses list, beating out such majestic figures as the late Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG, Eminem, Rick Rubin, Erykah Badu and Kanye West.
But as he finishes up work on his upcoming summer release Black Panties, the polarizing talent has been keeping an eye on the new breed of R&B visionaries. When asked his thoughts on Frank Ocean, the Weekend and VIBE’s current cover boy Miguel (https://www.vibe.com/article/watch-behind-scenes-kendrick-lamar-and-miguels-vibe-cover-shoot)—three acts currently redefining the guidelines of soul—the legend, who has dropped such classics as 12 Play, R., and The Chocolate Factory, had some sage advice for the newer kids on the block.
“I think these guys are good…they have the potential to be in it for a long period of time,” Kelly said of the trio. “That’s only if they start to write about life and not just writing a good song. I’ve seen a lot of guys that people say were promising. I’ve seen them come and go. They have to start writing about everyday life. That will keep you in the game and push you to legendville. If you are in this music, you may as well be in it to be a legend.”
As for all the talk of R&B music being dead, Kelly bristles at such a notion. “I don’t believe R&B is dead and I don’t think it’s going to die as long as I’m alive,” he confidently says. “I think it has caught a bad, terrible cold. It has the flu. And I think I’m the doctor. When I come back with my next album and we are going to shake this cold.”
VIBE’s full-length Q&A with R.Kelly featured in our ‘Big List’ issue is on stands now.—Keith Murphy (murphdogg29)