BY M. EMANUEL True or false: You can still be one of the biggest pop stars on the planet even if you (allegedly) urinated on and then fornicated with an underage girl, videotaped it, and then that tape was leaked to the world and the authorities brought 21 counts of child pornography charges against you. As much as we would all like to think the answer is false, we all know that’s not true.
However, knowing and caring are two different things and while we know the charges are still hanging out there, a better question is do we even care? One only has to look at his post-arrest-pre-trial career for the answer: three albums later, R. Kelly is a bigger star than ever. And if it’s not affecting Kels too much why should it stop us from helping him retain his self-appointed title as the King of R&B? We should feel entitled to keep on dancing and making babies to his music, right? After all, with all due apologies to the NAACP, as so eloquently put by Huey Freeman, Aaron McGruder’s revolutionary Boondocks character, “nigga can sing” but…
“What the hell is wrong with you people? Every famous nigga that gets arrested is not Nelson Mandela! Yes the government conspires to put a lot of innocent black men in jail on fallacious charges, but R. Kelly is not one of those men! We all know the nigga can sing! But what happened to standards? What happened to bare minimums? You a fan of R. Kelly? You wanna help R. Kelly? Then get some counseling for R. Kelly! Introduce him to some older women. Hide his camcorder … but don’t pretend like the man is a hero! … And stop the damn dancin’! Act like you’ve got some Goddamn sense, people! Damn!”
–Huey Freeman, The Boondocks
The numbers don’t lie. The new album, Double Up, is already gold, and creeping towards platinum status — having long since gone to Number One on the Billboard 200. If it gets there, it will be the fifth R. Kelly album to accomplish this feat, and the third since his indictment. Amazing when you consider the charges, and the fact that if not for some slick legal maneuvering and good fortune on his part, Double Up, may have never seen the light of day. In an era where celebs like Beanie Sigel, Paris Hilton, Lil’ Kim, and Martha Stewart have faced the music and done their time, R. Kelly hasn’t even stood trial. The reasons range from the calculated to the bizarre. To date, there has been the legal wrangling over pinpointing the year in which the alleged acts took place, the authenticity of the tape depicting said acts,” the qualifications of the experts weighing in on the authenticity of said tape, the judge’s ladder mishap, the burst appendix, and numerous continuances. One thing has happened in the midst of all this: Kels has continued to travel, record, shoot videos (the musical kind) and make money to keep those lawyer fees paid.
With Double Up, the money will keep rolling in. On the lead single, “I’m A Flirt,” Kels reminds us that he’s the King of R&B, and as such he will take your girlfriend or your girlfriend’s girlfriend or his girlfriend’s girlfriend, to the point where at the end of the song, there are no girls left for anyone, save T.I. and T-Pain. That song is followed up by the currently heavily rotated, “Same Girl” with Usher, where we learn that Usher’s penchant for older women and Kels alleged penchant for younger ones — well, let’s just say they meet in the middle. The album is full of potential singles, from “Sweet Tooth” (Kels likes candy it seems) to “The Zoo,” which I would not recommend for children contrary to the kid-friendly title, to the venomous “Real Talk” where Kels chooses to express himself with a few choice words for a lady friend (hopefully not the girlfriend’s girlfriend) and concluding with “Rise Up,” a track dedicated to the victims of the Virginia Tech Tragedy (what a mensch!), Kels has managed to mix club anthems (see the title track where the R. and Snoop aren’t talking about gambling but a doubling of a different sort), with the requisite slow groove “Sex Planet” and more made-for-TV drama (“Best Friend”) as only would be expected from the self-appointed King of R&B.
But more than anything, the album is fascinating for the depth of it’s denial — you would not know these words were being sung by a man facing some very grave charges, a man looking at 15 years behind bars if convicted. The message seems to be that for Kels, the charges don’t matter and as long as he can continue to pay his legal dream team, and as such they may never matter. Fan reaction also tells us that the charges don’t matter. What was once the hot topic for gossip columns and Internet blogs has now turned into subtext, a back-story to the music, a simple footnote on the list of the King’s accomplishments. At the end of the day, the message is if you’re good enough at what you do, not only is almost everyone willing to forgive, but they just might be willing to forget. Everyone, that is, except the judge and prosecutor.
R. KELLY: I’m A Flirt
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The easiest word to describe M. Emanuel is “complex.” At least as it relates to tastes and interest, he offers a varied palate for that which inspires thought or emotion. Typically framed against the backdrop of hip-hop culture, but with a sharp awareness of what preceded the culture and what is now influenced by it, he’s intrigued by the intersection of commerce and art. It’s a rather natural position and balance of contrast that one would expect from a former college radio DJ turned corporate attorney who collects sneakers on the side and still writes rhymes from time to time. While we can’t expect to hear a full- length anytime soon, you can expect unique and hopefully enlightening insight from someone who, while navigating the world of corporate politics, has always kept his ear to the pavement. Hailing from Virginia, but now firmly entrenched in the 215, M. Emanuel focuses his daily grind in the areas of intellectual property and entertainment law. His many interests include music, film, the arts, fashion, sports, and travel, holding hands on the beach, shots of Patron, and making it rain.
[Illustration by ALEX FINE]