In each generation there is an artist that absolutely blows your mind. Their talent is hard to measure and to a degree, it’s difficult to fathom the level of skills they possess. Like the old saying goes, some people just have that “IT Factor.” With great gifts and blessings comes responsibility, leadership, mentorship along with professionalism. I also believe the great ones deal with the gift and curse of their own ability. It’s like being so great that it almost drive you crazy or mad. In the story of Robert Kelly, there are so many levels to his genius and madness. As a fan of music, his trials and tribulations remind me of Marvin Gaye to a degree. I believe artist of their caliber get bored with making music at times because it comes so easy. With an effortless and flawless ability to create classic music comes “idol time” that can enhance the artist or destroy their legacy.
As I gather my thoughts, let me first say that R. Kelly is possibly the most talented musician since Prince and Michael Jackson. In the history of modern music, one could argue and debate that R. Kelly is on the same level as Stevie Wonder, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles and the previously mentioned Marvin Gaye in terms of range. R. Kelly has the amazing ability to take listeners on a variety of spiritual journeys. R. Kelly can make the fans dance, take them to Church, provide them with inspiration and force listeners to embrace a variety of styles. To be quite frank, R. Kelly can mimic, create and master any style of music. There is no genre off limits to his unique gift. I mean, who can go from “I Believe I Can Fly” to a track with Jay-z and Cam’ron? Well, I can tell you with confidence that R. Kelly is truly one of a kind whether you agree with his personal demons or not.
When it comes to personal demons, we all have a few in the closet. There is a glass house within each of us. Marvin Gaye brilliantly outlined this reality in his epic track “Troubled Man.” When I hear this song from my favorite artist, I automatically think about R. Kelly. Marvin dealt with the demons of drugs and R. Kelly has appeared to deal with the temptations of women. R. Kelly’s history with regard to dating younger women, videos of sexual excursions, and recent reports of several women living in some of his properties under rather interesting circumstances have surely provided fans with a cause to pause. We also know about his marriage to Aaliyah while she was a teen. Aaliyah’s parents assisted in getting the marriage annulled, but I digress. This was definitely a time when a lot of individuals who supported R. Kelly started to become turned off by his personal life and decisions. R. Kelly was influenced by Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, The Isley Brothers, and Al Green. Of course each of these greats had an interesting life and past with regard to behaviors.
Looking back at all of the legendary musicians, they each fought with a reflection in the mirror. At the same time, a person’s celebrity can minimize their indiscretions. Several months ago I posted a video on Facebook about R. Kelly. I asked the question, “Have Black People Forgiven R. Kelly?” This was prompted by a Tour R. Kelly had embarked on that appeared to be a huge success nationwide. I noticed a lot of friends who are parents supporting R. Kelly’s movement. I even had dialogue with associates who talked about being able to separate his personal life from his music. There were comments that absolutely blew me away. I was debating the fact that if any of the alleged victims were daughters of fans, would they feel the same way about his music. R. Kelly sold out concerts in every city he visited and the majority of his crowds were filled with women. R. Kelly hasn’t been out casted by the Black Community and I guess this is what baffled me to a certain degree.
R. Kelly is one of the greatest musicians in the history of America. During the early part of his career I owned all of his music. I respect his talent and ability to connect with his fans. The album 12 Play was a stable of excellence as I graduated High School and entered College. R. Kelly’s music was a connection to Men and Women. He could make a tense encounter turn into a passionate one. He could take you to Church with spiritual enlightenment. R. Kelly could put you on the dance floor to groove, step in the name of love and create a bonding experience with the opposite sex. At the same time, R. Kelly appears to be a “Troubled Man”, who alienated thousands of fans with his behavior. I often wonder how history will look R. Kelly. I often wonder how R. Kelly will be remembered after he’s no longer in the physical form. One thing that can’t be denied is his contribution to music. R. Kelly has written and produced not only for himself but for Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, The Isley Brothers, Biggie Smalls, Toni Braxton, Billie Ocean and the list goes on and on. At the end of the day, only God can judge us.
R. Kelly "We Ride" featuring Jay-Z, Cam'Ron, NORE & Vegas Boyz