CHICAGO — That’s not a wall, that’s a television! [artist id="10489"]R. Kelly’s[/artist] crib is that huge. On Monday night, the singer opened his doors to MTV News, friends and a few other media outlets to unveil Untitled. The LP is now scheduled for an October 13 release, and his Ladies Make Some Noise tour begins on October 8.
Kelly welcomed everyone into his living room, which is the size of your average lounge. It has a log-cabin theme with a movie-screen-size television that rises from the ground, a stage (Kelly gives private concerts there for friends and families sometimes) and shelves full of trophies from the Grammys, Billboard, BMI, Source, Soul Train and others.
The most telling pieces in the legendary singer’s living room are the most human, two pictures of him and his three daughters. “Love those around you,” reads the words on one of the pic’s frames.
“I did my homework or else I wouldn’t have invited all these important mutha—–s in my home,” the Pied Piper said with a smile as he moved from table to table, greeting guests.
He started the night with food and drinks. Bartenders served a concoction Kelly came up and named after one of his popular ditties, “Sex in the Kitchen.”
Before the music, Kells stood on one of the wooden end-tables and led a toast, “May the best of past, be the worst of our future.
“By the grace of God, I’m still here doing it big,” he added. “I’m trying to get back on top of that mountain and roar like the Lion King.”
Before playing the album, he debuted the video for his new single, “Number One,” with Keri Hilson, which he calls an “R. Keri” production. The performance video starts with Kelly at the V-103 radio station in Atlanta and Hilson at WGCI in Chicago.
Kelly’s album was mostly devised in Atlanta. He and his manager went down South and met with dozens of producers, from the big names to unknowns. The beatmakers brought tracks, and R chose the guys that were most consistent with their heat to work him.
“I said, ‘I want him, him and him,’ ” Kelly said as the music began playing.
One of the singer’s favorites is “Exit,” which he co-produced with Jazze Pha. “I can’t leave this club without you girl, you deserve an encore,” he sings, accompanied by a piano. At times he incorporates a do-re-mi-type flow.
“I wanna rub, wanna touch every inch of your frame/… I got a big house in the mountains let’s go/ I even got a stripper pole.”
Another Kelly favorite is “Echo,” in which he actually yodels.
“Yo-de-lay, yo-de-lay, yo-de-lay hoo-hoo,” is what he promises his woman will scream in ecstasy. “I got you sounding like you’re screaming from a mountain peak.”
Later, as the album progressed, he yelled for the song “Elsewhere” to be stopped and restarted. “I got my baby back with this one,” Kelly said. He said he played the break-up/make-up ballad for his woman over the phone at a time when they were having turmoil, and she came right home.
Untitled contains no references to Kelly’s past legal problems, nor does it have any messages for some of the younger R&B artists, such as Trey Songz, who are going for his throne.
“It’s like Ali: When you get to a certain status, you never have to throw a punch,” he explained.
As “Fallin’ From the Sky,” another one of the album’s ballads, began, Kelly revealed, “This one I originally wrote for Chris Brown.
“I wrote ‘Happy People’ for Stevie Wonder,” Kelly added, regretting that he’s yet to work with the legend in the studio. “He would have sounded great on that one.”
Speaking of which, Kelly escorted his crowd down to the basement to his lab later in the night. There’s no vocal booth — he records everything right at his keyboard, he said, the way Marvin Gaye did. There’s a note on the wall that reminds him he has to finish the five songs he worked on with Michael Jackson before his death. Another note says that Good News is the name of Kelly’s upcoming stepping album.
When asked why he has a big mirror right beside his keyboard, he explained that sometimes he has to change outfits when making music to get his swagger right. “I look and see Kells,” he laughed, “not Robert the momma’s boy.”