R. Kelly: His Own Worst Enemy

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 30, 2005 2:36PM

With more court action overshadowing his latest release, Chicagoist is almost—almost—starting to feel sorry for R. Kelly.

Yesterday 2005_06_30_kelly.jpga Cook County judge ordered Kelly to give a deposition in a civil case brought against him by a woman who claims he videotaped her without permission; the woman was of legal age at the time (and my God we can’t believe that’s a clarification we actually have to make). Kelly’s lawyers argued that the statute of limitations on her claim had run out and Kelly should not be compelled to tell what he knows. The deposition will likely be given after the conclusion of Kelly’s criminal trial, which begins in three weeks though he’ll appear in court for a pretrial hearing tomorrow.

As for his work outside of the courtroom, the Sun-Times’ Jim DeRogatis reviewed the multi-part "Trapped In The Closet" earlier this month and four of the five parts can be heard here. A local R&B promoter quoted in the Tribune states that the work “is not art...it's pretty shallow and not very creative at all." She couldn’t be more wrong. The arrogance of releasing what is essentially a multi-part spoken word performance piece as a pop single that many view as part of a public relations ploy (“Hey, we all have something to hide!”) is trumped by its ability to hook listeners without any actual “hooks.”

At this point, it may be impossible for the Pied Piper to ever again be featured in the lede of a story without the inclusion of the words “child pornography charges” and he has no one to blame for this but himself. Yet it comes at a time when Kelly is releasing some of the most compelling work of his career. Ten years from now, when we hear the lyrics to “Rock With You” we won’t immediately think of Michael Jackson’s child molestation charges (although we confess we hear “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” in a whole new way now). But even an acquittal on all charges may not allow listeners to separate R. Kelly The Artist from R. Kelly The Defendant as so much of his persona is tied into his work. Whether Kelly’s career is marginalized as a result will be revealed in time.

Chicagoist has long held that lousy human beings make some of the best music. With R. Kelly, it may be impossible to one day appreciate the latter and ignore the former.