R. Kelly

TP.3 Reloaded

(Jive; 2005)

By Clayton Purdom | 30 October 2007

As is my custom, I'll make my point using a moral dilemma:

You move into a new neighborhood. Everybody says the guy that lives next door to you makes the best goddamn cookies in town, so you're excited, because cookies are delicious, right? So eventually your neighbor comes over with a plate of oatmeal cookies ("Ignition"), and you take them inside and eat them. They're tasteless and brittle, so you throw them out. A week later, the neighbor comes over with a new plate of oatmeal cookies ("Ignition (remix)"), boasting that his old recipe has been blown away. You taste the cookie, and it is, indeed, the best cookie you've ever had in your life. Nothing the neighbor makes afterward is that good, but you always try it, just because hot damn were those remixed oatmeal cookies fantastic.

Then, while you're gardening, a neighbor from down the street informs you that this cookie-baking genius has, in fact, pissed on a 16-year-old girl on video. A hoopla ensues, and in the end you're not sure whether there's any validity to the claims, but from your vantage point that guy in the video looks an awful lot like the cookie-baking neighbor. A week later, the neighbor comes over with a five-tiered cake ("Trapped in the Closet": http://www.r-kelly.com/index_main.html). Everybody else on the street has apparently forgiven the whole "pissing on a teenage girl" thing, and they rave over the five-tiered cake as the work of a mad scientist. Do you eat the cake?

I wouldn't, either. But apparently that fucking cake is delicious.

After reading the preceding intro to my abandoned review of “Trapped in the Closet,” CMG Editor-in-Something Aaron Newell exclaimed, "Dude, that cake story is kind of like R. Kelly’s whole teen sex thing with the teen sex and the video and the pee, except with cake!"

I thanked Mr. Newell for pointing out the allegory-in-waiting, but it left me wondering: how delicious is the pee cake, really?

I say: bucket of crumbs. The "Trapped in the Closet" series is overblown and brittle. This is almost twenty minutes of the same beat, which would be yet another acquittable crime given the tracks' haha premise, except the beat is a fuddling squelchfest built around a couple of water drips and guitar plucks and a tacked-on smattering of strings at the end. This is either minimalism or amateurism, but either way it's boring. It puts the focus squarely on Kelly's vocal performance which is — okay. He may have some tricks up his sleeve, sure, but while ear-grabbing, these tricks are mostly just funny, like the "woo-woo-woo-damn" in part four, or the instaclassic "think . . . think . . . think . . . Quick! Put me in the closet!" in the opening act.

So Kels is in the closet, literally. Other people are in figurative closets. Kelly therefore handily points out one possible use for the literary device of figurative language, and offers up serial suds in the grade-school lesson's wake. Gee. Thanks.

The album from which this epic was culled is called TP.3 Reloaded, which makes it the second fucking time that R. Kelly has recycled his 12 Play album title. There are exactly three ways to describe this album. The first is: not bad. I don’t mean “not bad” like the new Prefuse album was not bad, but “not bad” in the way that a car accident can be “not bad.” This is a well-produced album, and Kelly’s vocal performance throughout is reliable. There’s nothing as front-to-back awful as “Trapped in the Closet,” except for maybe leadoff single “Playas Only.” For a certain type of person, this album is probably pretty good.

The second way to describe this album is: a laff riot. R’s lyrical fixations are a thing of skewed wonder, like how he makes an entire track called “Put My T-Shirt On,” wherein Kelly croons shit like, “My triple X on / Girl you make it look so right,” or, “I wanna sex you in my white T / I wanna stroke you in my white T.” I’m not making this up. Even better is “Sex Weed,” which contains the lines, “Girl, you’ve got me blowed / Just one look at you I’ve got contact / Can I get a pull of that?” I’m not sure if this song is about smoking pot and then having sex or having sex with a drug dealer or having sex with a bag of drugs. The lyrics just work on so many levels.

Between the past two descriptions, you may be eyeing TP.3 Reloaded with some interest — if it’s funny and not unlistenable, we may have a kitsch classic on our hands, right? No. The third way to describe this album is: reprehensible. R. Kelly’s pretty much being marketed these days as a guilty pleasure. This is partially correct because, in fact, he’s actually just guilty. He’s guilty of some pretty fucked up shit, too, and he’s guilty of putting out an exploitative album immediately afterward called Chocolate Factory, and he’s guilty of making a half-assed attempt at Christian music after that, and he’s guilty of ruining every middle school dance for me with “I Believe I Can Fly,” and he’s guilty of making a twenty-minute opera that doesn’t make any sense, and he’s guilty of releasing this shitbox of an album, too.

And, on the cover, he definitely has a boner: