In the 20 years since the release of R. Kelly's 1993 solo debut 12 Play, Robert Sylvester Kelly’s been many things to many people: multi-platinum selling artist, mesmerizing performer, bottomless well of delightfully filthy lyrics, subject of TWO different Aziz Ansari bits, courtroom defendant, epic hip-hopera artiste and Lady Gaga collaborator, just to name a few.
When discussing the man and the often self-cultivated myth, the fact that Kelly's written and produced songs for a wide range of artists often gets overlooked. With his 12th solo studio album Black Panties due out next month, we look at seven of his lesser-known songwriting credits.
Kelly also wrote and produced the boy band's follow-up single "Girlfriend," the video for which features soul singer Ron Isley as Mr. Biggs, a recurring character in the songs and videos that constitute the R. Kellyverse.
"You Are Not Alone" set a Guinness World Record as the first song to debut at No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart's history, and it was also Michael Jackson's last No. 1 hit in the U.S. before his death in 2009. Despite the wholesome message in the song's lyrics, its video is NSFW if your workplace is sensitive to Lisa Marie Presley with no shirt on.
Kelly released his own version of "You Are Not Alone" as a bonus track on 2010's Love Letter with the intro, "in loving memories of my hero MJ."
"808" was the lead single off of Blaque's 1999 debut, a hit that charted in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The song is a strong example of Kelly's talent for writing hits for female R&B artists over the years, though it's far less famous than his work on Age Ain't Nothing But a Number for Aaliyah, to whom he was briefly and illegally married.
"Celebrate" is from the 2012 film Sparkle costarring Whitney Houston and Jordin Sparks and while the upbeat, disco-inflected track is certainly not Houston's most memorable work, it will always be remembered as the last song she recorded just four days before her death. Kelly had previously written two songs ("I Look to You" and "Salute") for Houston's 2009 album I Look to You.
"Outrageous" was Britney Spears' final single from 2003's In the Zone, largely overshadowed by the success of "Toxic" and "Me Against the Music" with Madonna. The unreleased video, which was canceled after Britney injured her knee in a dance routine, costarred Snoop Dogg and was sadly 100% Kellz-free.
Kelly has written over a dozen songs for veteran soul group The Isley Brothers, including 11 out 12 songs on 2003's Body Kiss. But any fan of R. Kelly's 33-chapter Trapped in the Closet opus will likely appreciate 2001's "Contagious" the most.
Here we see the return of Ron Isley's Mr. Biggs, first seen in Kelly's video for "Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)" in 1995. In a lyrical play-by-play, Isley reveals how he learned Chanté Moore has been cheating on him in his own home: “And then I turned the TV down/'cause I know I heard a squeaky sound." The dramatic confrontation between Isley, Moore, and Kelly at the video's 3:35 mark stylistically foreshadows everything we'd come to love about Trapped in the Closet four years later.