Gap Band lead singer Charlie Wilson figured he had to wait years for major labels to give him a chance at launching another solo album, so waiting a few hours for R. Kelly wasn't going to be too much of a task. Actually, it was. But his three-plus-hour delay at an ungodly hour in the heart of the 'hood turned out to be worth it.
" '1 a.m.?' " Wilson asked, recalling his reaction to the time he was told to meet R. Kelly at Chicago gym. "I was like, 'I don't know about this sh--. I don't be out at 1:00. Those days are long gone.' "
Back in 2001, Wilson was in Chicago performing in a gospel play and decided that he was going to try and get a track from the R. while he was in town. A mutual friend told Wilson that the best place to catch up with the Pied Piper of R&B was at a gym where he plays basketball every night.
"There's some really crazy dudes in there playing basketball," Wilson, now chuckling, continued. It wasn't so funny at the time though.
"Man, I was getting sleepy," he said. "And I was like, 'I got on all this jewelry, and somebody is gonna jack me.' "
To make matters worse, Kelly came way later than 1 a.m., and then played three basketball games before Wilson got to holla at him. Finally, Uncle Charlie rolled up on a sweat-soaked Kelly and invited him out to the next night's performance of the gospel play. Kells brought along Ron "Mr. Biggs" Isley.
"They was late," Wilson recalled. "I said, 'Rob, you gotta be on time.' They got there around the second half. Rob said, 'I was ready at 7:00, like you said. I was waiting for Biggs.' When he said Biggs was late, I was like, 'Oh, [Ron] is hating.' "
After the show, there was a bunch of jaw jacking going on in Wilson's dressing room.
"I started talking sh--," Wilson said. " 'I can't get nobody to produce me. ... Biggs, what you gotta do to get your record produced?' Rob was like 'Aww sh--. Here we go!' I was clowning them all. [Kelly] was like, 'Uncle Charlie, you wanna go to the studio tonight?' "
"We went to the studio and Biggs was mad at me. He talked for four hours till Rob went to sleep. Finally he said, 'I ain't mad at you no more.' I said 'You shouldn't be. You talked till R. Kelly went to sleep.' It was funny."
Just as the R. told him, once the word leaked to major labels that Wilson was working with a fellow R&B legend, the record companies suddenly came knocking.
"Some labels just don't see the visions," Wilson explained. "They'd be like,'Who you trying to target? What fanbase?' N---a, I'm just gonna sing. Can you put the record out? They was trying to put me in a cubbyhole. For many years they was looking at me funny, I guess. Then after I said I was mingling with R. Kelly, everybody started coming out the woodwork — some of the same people that turned me down! I was like, 'Dog, I was knocking on your door just last year. You should have hollered.' "
Charlie Wilson eventually settled on Jive about a year ago, and is set to deliver his album Charlie, Last Name Wilson on July 12. Kelly is the executive producer of the LP, and he also produced four tracks.
"Kelly is pregnant with music," Wilson boasted. "It don't make no sense the way he spits stuff out. He's been out like 14, 15 years. He ain't turn in no bricks. That's unheard of. 15 years straight without a brick."
Wilson is also proud of his work with Justin Timberlake. Timberlake sings on and co-produced a Wilson record called "Floating" with Will.I.Am (see "R. Kelly Ditches Kitchen Sex, Gets Trapped In 'The Closet' ").
"Some people think Justin is just this white kid from a boy band," Uncle Charlie said. "But he's this white kid who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. This kid has it in his soul. He's got that black music in him. To watch him evolve and go in the studio with me and Will I. Am, it's crazy."
Wilson just shot the video for his first single, "Charlie, Last Name Wilson," in Los Angeles with director Lenny Bass.