R. Kelly has a well-documented history of bizarre, long-winded storytelling (see: all 33 chapters of Trapped in the Closet), but his latest dramatic narrative might just be his magnum opus.
Following the artist’s lengthy profile for GQ, the magazine has now released a video in which Kelly tells his entire life story… in 45 straight minutes. (We couldn’t make this up if we tried.) The half-spoken, half-sung vid is a predictably odd, occasionally touching and completely engrossing one-man show that recounts Kelly’s life as a child growing up in Chicago until now.
The Kelly creation story begins as such: “I was like a sea. I was like a fish in the middle of an ocean, and then I woke up as a whale in the middle of a pond.” From there, Kelly describes the melody of “I Believe I Can Fly” coming to him in a dream, being shot in the arm while riding his bike at age 14, dropping out of high school to become a street performer and feeling “pregnant by” music. The beauty of it all is you have no idea when Kelly’s going to break into song — and when he does, it’s equal parts stunning and amusing.
In a particularly moving moment, Kelly removes his sunglasses, sticks a cigar in his mouth and apologizes to his mother, who passed away in 1993.
“I said I promise you mama, no matter what, by any means necessary, I will be one of the best singers, songwriters this world has ever seen,” he said, describing his mom’s final moments. “I made my mom that promise, and I am still on a journey to fulfill that promise.”
Unsurprisingly, Kelly doesn’t delve into the controversies that have scarred his reputation over the years, including his alleged history of having sexual relationships with underage girls. But you can bet everything else is in there. All 45 minutes worth of it. If you really don’t have time for the whole thing, though, GQ did us all a solid by offering up a five-minute abridged version. Check out both below: