By Rebecca Thomas
R. Kelly has evolved over the years, and now the Pied Piper wants to give fans a chance to connect with him and understand his growth, in his upcoming memoir "Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me."
He went from "Feelin' on Yo Booty" to "Feelin' Single," but that doesn't mean R. Kelly lost his edge. It's just that the man who once compared his lady to his jeep got tossed around by love a little bit, and it got him feeling reflective.
On Monday night, fresh from taping a performance for Jimmy Fallon's "Late Night" — and still dapper in the all-black leather duds he threw on for the show — Kellz paid a visit to MTV News' New York offices. We welcomed him to our intimate studio space, where he opened up about committing it all to paper for his new memoir, "Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me."
But, wait. It wouldn't be 100 if we didn't tell you that we paused for a few beats to absorb the moment. Name the last song that played at your uncle's wedding, at your junior high dance, Kellz probably wrote it. High-wattage celebrities stalk these halls every day, but R. Kelly is one of a dying breed: true megastars whose success pre-dates the (un)filtered access of the Instagram era. That's probably why he seemed to glide as he walked down a long corridor, halting with a warm hug and a "Hey, Sweetheart."
So why would an artist who can boast more than 38 million albums sold but whose personal trials have been the stuff of court stenographers want to hang it all out now, we wondered?
"Well, no better time than now. Everybody knows me musically and R. Kelly writes songs and I've done the award shows and everything," he said, "[But] I felt it was time for them to know me personally, you know?"
While his ex-wife and onetime backup dancer Andrea Kelly has been documenting life after divorce on VH1's "Hollywood Exes," up until now, fans could only guess at the Chicago crooner's emotional state by parsing the music. Songs like the searing "When a Woman Loves" from 2010's retro-flavored, critically acclaimed Love Letter hint at the ultimate demise of the marriage in 2009, but "Soulacoaster" goes deep and lays it bare.
"The collapse of my marriage happened during the same seven-year period when the court case against me was building while, in reaction, my creative life was boiling," he writes in a chapter titled "The Breakup," candidly underscoring the long-held truism that sadness is often the best incubator for great music.
The notoriously private King of R&B also delves into hot-button topics like the beef that erupted between him and fellow titan Jay-Z on their ill-fated Best of Both Worlds Tour — you know we had to chat him up about that and more — and his legal troubles. Asked whether there was any subject he was tempted to press delete on, Kellz said "No."
"I'm a guy that spends a lot of time in the studio ... and I just never really in my career, during my whole career, got into doing a lot of press," Kelly, who debuted in 1992 as part of the group Public Announcement, told us. "I'm ready to do it now."
He's just a Chi-town guy with a Marvin flow. Stick with MTV News as we roll out more from our sit-down with R. Kelly, who talks Jay-Z, R&B beef, the rise of Chief Keef and more!