Features | Awards

The Real Talk Award for Most Honest Communication in a R&B Non-Single

By Andrew Hall | 12 December 2011

R. Kelly :: “Shut Up!”
from Black Panties
(Jive/JLG; 2012)

R. Kelly’s 2011 wasn’t supposed to look like this. Following last year’s largely excellent Love Letter, a record which saw him at his least bonkers possibly ever, and an interview by Will Oldham that made a remarkable argument in support of theories of Kelly as genius craftsman rather than as gifted lunatic, he lost his voice. In Oldham’s interview, Kelly revealed both that at one point he performed a two-and-a-half hour Sam Cooke tribute in his own living room in order to get into character to write Love Letter, but also that he had a new album in the works, formerly titled Zodiac, then The Return of 12 Play: Night of the Living Dead, and now to be titled Black Panties; it has yet to appear in any form. Somewhere along the way, The-Dream’s label-limboed The Love Part IV: Diary of a Madman was also to feature a collaboration with Kelly, yet that too never surfaced. Though he managed to spend at least part of the year on tour, it was a rare year with almost no recorded output from Kelly, his first since 2008, and that year his album, 12 Play Fourth Quarter, only didn’t see release because he was on trial for about a million things involving children.

And so he marked his return with this song, “Shut Up!” Here, Kelly gets back to a mode he last featured on a single on Double Up’s “Real Talk,” ranting as melodically as possible about tonsil surgery and his alleged financial trouble over a beat that’s not really that far removed from a James Blake production, riding sparse, ascending electric piano and organ leads, building slowly to a climax in which Kelly’s vocal runs serve the same effect as Blake’s sub-bass, both talents dispatching their secret weapons at the last possible moment.

But before he gets there, Kelly asserts that more children have been conceived to his music than to anyone else’s over the course of the last twenty years, and when he says it—or when one stops to think about it—it seems basically undeniable. As hilarious as it is to hear it spoken in song, who could possibly compete – or get away with trying to top him? With his forthcoming autobiography Soula Coaster: The Story of Me on the way, and probably both his new record and Terius Nash’s, one can only expect his 2012 to work out slightly better.