Robert Sylvester Kelly (born January 8, 1967) is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, occasional rapper, and record producer. Debuting in 1992 with the group Public Announcement, Kelly went solo in 1993 for a successful solo career starting with the album, 12 Play. Kelly is known for a collection of hit singles including "Bump n' Grind", "I Believe I Can Fly", "Gotham City", "Ignition", "If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time", "The World's Greatest", and the hip-hopera "Trapped in the Closet.
Kelly has also produced and performed in many tracks by other R&B and hip-hop artists. In 1994, Kelly produced and wrote the debut album of R&B singer Aaliyah. Kelly has sung the hooks for many notable hip-hop songs, such as "Lovin' You Tonight" by The Notorious B.I.G., "We Thuggin'" by Fat Joe, "Gigolo" by Nick Cannon, and "Go Getta" by Young Jeezy, and has collaborated for two albums with Jay-Z.
In his personal life, Kelly has had several sex scandals. Reports surfaced that he married the then-teenaged Aaliyah, for whom he was a songwriter. Kelly and Aaliyah allegedly annulled their marriage. After a video of a man purported to be him having sex with an underage girl was released, Kelly was indicted on several counts of child pornography in 2002. After several delays, his case went to trial in 2008, with the jury ruling Kelly not guilty on all counts.
Main article: Public Announcement
Born in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, Kelly was the third of four children. Kelly's single mother, Joanne, was a singer and a Baptist. Kelly's father was absent throughout most of Kelly's life. Kelly began singing in church at age eight. In Chicago, Kelly's family lived in the projects at 63rd Street before relocating to a small house at 107th and Parnell Streets. Kelly entered the Kenwood Academy in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood in the fall of 1980 but did not graduate. As a teenager, Kelly began street performing (or busking) under the Chicago 'L' trains before he eventually formed a group with his friend Marc McWilliams. In 1990, Kelly and McWilliams formed the group MGM (Musically Gifted Men). Along with Vincent Corey Walker and Shawnth Brooks, Kelly performed on the TV talent show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole, and went on to win the $100,000 grand prize. Soon after, R. Kelly & MGM released their first single, "Why You Wanna Play Me," on Tavdash Records. Kelly signed to Jive Records in 1991, and Kelly formed another R&B group with friends called Public Announcement.
Kelly and Public Announcement released their debut album, Born into the 90's, in early 1992. Released during the new jack swing period of the early nineties, the album yielded the hits "She's Got That Vibe," "Honey Love," "Dedicated," and "Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ)," all of which were led by Kelly. During late 1992, Kelly and Public Announcement embarked on a tour called "60653", whose title was the zip code of Kelly's neighborhood. Kelly left Public Announcement in January 1993.
Early solo career (1990s)
Kelly's debut solo album, 12 Play, was released in the fall of 1993 and yielded the singer's first number-one hit, "Bump n' Grind," which spent a record-breaking 12 weeks at number one on the Hot R&B Singles chart. "Bump n' Grind" topped the Billboard R&B singles chart for twelve consecutive weeks. Subsequent hit singles were "Your Body's Callin'" and "Sex Me." 12 Play was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1994, eventually going six times multi-platinum. Kelly also produced Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, the 1994 debut album by the then-15-year-old female R&B singer Aaliyah. He also produced a remix for Janet Jackson's 1994 hit "Any Time, Any Place" and worked on "You Are Not Alone" for Michael Jackson for Jackson's 1995 album, HIStory. Belgian rights society SABAM found that Kelly had plagiarized the melody for "You Are Not Alone" from the song's original 1993 composition by veteran songwriters-producers and publishers Eddy and Danny Van Passel, and in 2007 a Belgian court upheld SABAM's claim. Kelly's success continued with the release of his third album, R. Kelly, popular for the singles "You Remind Me of Something", "I Can't Sleep (Baby If I)", and "Down Low", a duet with Ronald Isley. Kelly's self-titled album sold four million copies, thus receiving 4? multi-platinum certification from the RIAA. Kelly promoted the album with a 50-city "Down Low Top Secret Tour" with LL Cool J, Xscape, and Solo. In May 1996 Kelly was featured on the cover of Ebony Man (EM) magazine wih the headline proclaiming "R. Kelly The new King of R&B" where he discussed touring, working with Quincy Jones, Toni Braxton, and Janet Jackson ("When I first met them, I could tell they liked my albums. There was always a certain song they named off my album. They said they wanted something like that." Braxton liked "My Body's Calling."), as well as his influences Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway ("The way he approached the woman he loved in his songs. He didn't hold back" he says of Hathaway. "He was raw with what he had to say. And Marvin Gaye was the same.") and Michael Jackson praising Jackson's dedication to music. "He's another person that I feel is married to his music. That's why we related so well."
Continued success (late '90s and early '00s)
In 1996, Kelly released one of his most successful singles with "I Believe I Can Fly", an inspirational song originally released on the soundtrack for the film Space Jam. "I Believe I Can Fly" reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on the UK Charts for three weeks and won three Grammy Awards in 1997. Rolling Stone magazine named it as the 408th of its top 500 songs of all time. For the film Batman & Robin, Kelly recorded the top ten single "Gotham City".
Kelly released double album R. in 1998. It yielded the popular singles "I'm Your Angel" (featuring Celine Dion), "Half on a Baby" and "When a Woman's Fed Up." In 2003, the RIAA certified R. eight times multi-platinum. In 1998, Kelly wrote and produced the debut album of his new female artist Sparkle, which was released on his Rockland label, distributed through Interscope. The album went platinum due to the success of the first single, "Be Careful," a duet featuring Kelly and Sparkle. Kelly also found success with soundtracks such as "Gotham City" from "Batman & Robin", and "The World's Greatest" from Ali. In 1999, Kelly wrote and produced, along with Wyclef Jean, the majority of the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence movie Life. Kelly composed ten songs on the soundtrack, while Jean composed five. Kelly also contributed two songs, "Bad Man" and "Up and Outta Here," to the updated Samuel L. Jackson movie Shaft. In 2000, Kelly released TP-2.com, which yielded the hits "I Wish" and the remix to "Fiesta," which featured Jay-Z. Because of the success of that song and another Kelly/Jay-Z collaboration, "Guilty 'Til Proven Innocent," from Jay-Z's Dynasty album, it was announced in early 2002 that the duo would collaborate on a joint album and tour entitled The Best of Both Worlds. Due to controversy surrounding Kelly at the time, however, there was little promotion for the album when it was finally released and Kelly instead refocused his attention on his solo work as both a recording artist and producer.
During late 2001 and early 2002, Kelly began working on the follow up to his album TP-2.com, titled Loveland which was named after a dream he had where he felt love in a world that was so full of hate. The album was scheduled to be released in November 2002, but as with Best of Both Worlds before it, heavy bootlegging led to its being delayed. The singer then retooled the entire album; titled Chocolate Factory, it featured several of the bootlegged tracks, and many have cropped up elsewhere, as noted below. It also came as a six-track bonus disc with the initial pressings of Chocolate Factory. (Bootlegged tracks are listed in this footnote).
In early 2003, Chocolate Factory became a runaway success for Kelly, selling over three million copies due to the success of singles such as "Ignition," "Snake" and "Step in the Name of Love." "Snake," incidentally, became the basis of the dancehall reggae riddim known as Baghdad. Later that year Kelly followed that success by releasing his first, and long overdue, greatest hits collection The R in R&B Collection Volume 1, the album as well as a dvd collection. In 2004, Kelly released the ambitious two-disc set Happy People/U Saved Me, with the first disc including feel-good, stepping-inspired tracks, while focusing on gospel and inspirational material on the second disc. That same year, Kelly performed The Star-Spangled Banner during the introduction of the world championship boxing fight between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor. His performance, which included a line of dancers doing the "stepping" routine and a prerecorded instrumental track set to the sound of "Happy People," was met with a mixed reaction. In October 2004, Kelly reunited with Jay-Z to do a follow-up to their Best of Both Worlds album shortly after announcing a tour to coincide with the project after the duo performed together during Jay-Z's "farewell" concert at Madison Square Garden a year before. The duo's Unfinished Business album was released and peaked at number one on the Billboard chart.
The Unfinished Business tour was plagued by a rivalry between the two stars and Kelly reportedly showing up late or not at all to gigs. The singer, according to Jay-Z, often complained that the touring lights weren't directed towards him and often left during the middle of sets. Another night during the concert, Kelly stayed on his tour bus for two hours before finally coming out to perform an uninspired set. Jay-Z eventually removed R. Kelly halfway through the tour, after a member of Jay-Z's entourage attacked R. Kelly with Mace or pepper spray. On April 25, 2006, it was confirmed that Jay-Z's younger cousin, Tyran (Ty-Ty) Smith confessed in a Manhattan Criminal Court to pepper-spraying R. Kelly and four of his bodyguards at Madison Square Garden in October 2004. Smith had been charged with assault, but was allowed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct for four days of community service. After the original incident, Jay-Z made Smith an executive of Def Jam Records. Kelly also launched a $75 million lawsuit against Jay-Z for removing him from the tour, which received a countersuit by Jay-Z which was thrown out by the judge.
Double Up and current work
On May 29 2007, R Kelly released his eighth studio album Double Up included the hit single "I'm a Flirt (Remix)", featuring T.I. and T-Pain. The original track entitled "I'm a Flirt", also produced and co-written by R. Kelly, appeared as a hidden track on Bow Wow's The Price of Fame (2006). However, Kelly never gave the rights for the song to be released as a formal single, although it was played by many radio stations before the remix version. Kelly's first single from 'Double Up' was "I'm a Flirt (Remix)." Bow Wow was not featured on this version of the song. In Kelly's video for "I'm a Flirt (Remix)", he encourages fans to call a number which flashes up quickly on the screen. Fans who called the number were greeted by a recording of Kelly talking about his upcoming album and playing snippets of new songs in the studio. "I'm a Flirt (Remix)" was successful for Kelly. The song peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also reached number one on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks. Another hit on the album, "Same Girl", was a collaboration between Kelly and Usher. The single peaked at number 20 on the Hot 100 and peaked at number four on the R&B chart. Other singles such as "Rock Star" featuring Ludacris and Kid Rock, "Sex Planet" and "Freaky in the Club" were R&B charters, although the latter two were not officially released as singles, nor was the title track featuring Snoop Dogg.
Kelly's other single from Double Up titled "Rise Up" was a tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre. The song was officially released as a digital download May 15, 2007. Proceeds were donated to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, a fund that helped family members of the victims of the shootings.
Kelly began his Double Up tour with Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole and J. Holiday opening for him. After two shows, promoter Leonard Rowe had Ne-Yo removed from the tour because of a contract dispute. However, Ne-Yo alleges that the reason for the dropout was because Ne-Yo believes he received a better response from critics and fans, even though he only performed at two shows. Ne-Yo filed a lawsuit against Rowe Entertainment. It was shown that Kelly was not mentioned in the lawsuit. In December 2007, Kelly was admonished by the judge for not showing up to another preliminary court hearing on his case due to his tour bus being held up in Utah. The judge threatened to revoke Kelly's bond, but the judge eventually decided not to. In 2008, Kelly released a rap track titled "I'm a Beast" in which he coarsely attacked his detractors, though Kelly himself never mentioned by name who the song was directed to.
In 2008, Billboard reported that Kelly had plans to release his newest album titled 12 Play: Fourth Quarter in the summer of that year but the album was postponed. Billboard also named Kelly among the most successful artists ever for its 50th Anniversary List. In the spring, the first promotional single "Hair Braider", peaked at No. 56 on Billboard's R&B chart. On July 28, the entire album leaked online. The album was then pushed back to be released in the fall. On September 18, Kelly released the video to the second promotional single "Skin". However, the album still has no official release date. Though Kelly has not released an album, he has kept busy in the studio doing featured guest spots on numerous remixes including Lookin Boy remix by Hotstylz, Mariah Carey's Touch My Body remix, a verse for a remix to Kanye West's single Love Lockdown, Raheem DeVaughn's "Customer" remix, Beyonc? Knowles' If I Were a Boy remix, T-Pain's Chopped and Screwed remix, among others. A recent track was leaked on the internet titled "I Believe". Kelly states on his official myspace page that Obama's election inspired him to write the song, which contains an excerpt from Barack Obama's presidential acceptance speech. This song is available on iTunes as a free download. While at the Velvet Room in Atlanta in February 2009, Kelly announced that he was out there working on the album and that it would be called "Untitled". The album has recently been given a September release date. On June 3, 2009, Kelly released his first ever mixtape "The Demo Tape presented by DJ Skee and DJ Drama" as a way to reintroduce himself to fans, start fresh and give his fans something different. Kelly will perform for the first time in Africa headlining the Arise African Fashion Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday, June 20, 2009. Kelly is also scheduled to perform in Capetown before heading to Nigeria as part of the annual ThisDay music and fashion festival in July. He is also scheduled to perform in London as part of his first international tour in 8 years. "I'm very excited about my first visit to Africa, I've dreamed about this for a long time and it?s finally here,? Kelly said in a statement. ?It will be one of the highlights of not only my career but my life. I can?t wait to perform in front of my fans in Africa ? who have been some of the best in the world."
Marriages and children
In 1994, 27 year old Kelly married his prot?g?e, 15 year old R&B singer Aaliyah. He had known Aaliyah since she was 12 had spent the last three years working on her debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. The Chicago Sun-Times printed a marriage document showcasing the marriage certificate, and noted that Aaliyah had lied about being eighteen when in truth she was only fifteen. The marriage was annulled in February 1995 and neither singer confirmed the marriage rumors, dismissing them as lies.
In 1996, Kelly married Andrea Lee, a dancer from his tour. Together the couple have two daughters and a son. According to Andrea, later in the marriage Kelly became abusive toward her; at one time she filed an emergency protective order against Kelly but later dropped it. The couple filed for divorce in 2006 . The divorce was finalized on January 8, 2009.
Child pornography trial
Kelly had been accused of having relationships with underage girls before. None of the prior reports reached the level of publicity that followed the release of a video tape in February 2002. It allegedly showed Kelly and Sparkle's (a former Kelly prot?g?e) 14-year-old daughter niece engaging in sex . The tape, released by an unknown source, was sent to the Chicago Sun-Times, the newspaper that broke the story. Kelly denied that he was the man in the video, even implicating that the man was his brother and not himself.
Bootleg copies of that tape became widely available on the black market and over file sharing networks. In June 2002, Kelly was indicted in Chicago for 21 counts of having sex with a minor, which were later reduced to soliciting a minor for child pornography, seven counts of videotaping the acts, and seven counts of producing child pornography. The parents testified to the grand jury that it was not their daughter on the video.
After a number of delays, on October 27, 2006, a Cook County, Illinois court hearing for pre-trial motions set the date of the actual trial to February 7, 2007 .On the date of the trial Kelly's lawyer informed the court that his client was unable to attend because he was "undergoing surgery for a burst appendix". He also announced that Kelly was "in good condition and was expected to be released from the hospital later in the day." His attorney stated that Kelly (who pled not guilty) would be in attendance on the next trial date of February 21, 2007. It had previously been announced by the court that the videotape that allegedly shows Kelly performing sex acts with an underage girl will be publicly shown as evidence in the trial.
The trial, however, was delayed due to disputes over when the tape was made and to give medical recuperation time to the sitting judge following a fall resulting in broken bones. Later the case was set for a September 17 date.
It took more than six years for the case to go to trial. Jury selection began on May 9, 2008, and the trial officially started on May 20 with opening statements from the prosecution and defense. After two weeks, the prosecution's case wrapped on June 3 while the defense's wrapped six days later, on June 9. After less than a day of deliberations, on June 13, 2008 a Chicago jury found R. Kelly not guilty of all 14 counts of videotaping himself having sex with an underage girl.
Additional child porn charges
In January 2003 Kelly was arrested in Florida on child pornography charges. In June 2002 his Davenport, Florida house was searched. Officers found pictures of underage girls as well as a video of Kelly having sex with an underage girl on a digital camera ? wrapped in a towel in a duffel bag . In March 2004 these charges were dropped due to a lack of probable cause for the search warrants.
Other legal troubles
After a July 1996 brawl at a Lafayette, Louisiana health club involving bodyguard William Robert Hinton, Kelly was placed on a year's unsupervised probation starting August 13, 1997. One of the victims, Christopher Mahoney, needed 110 facial stitches. Kelly was arrested on April 8, 1998 on three misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, including one charge on violating noise ordinance for playing loud music from his car. Prosecutors from the district attorney's office dropped the first two charges on May 7 and the noise charge on July 22 that year.
On October 4, 2006, former employee Henry "Love" Vaughn (who claims to have been a ?mentor and guide? to Kelly since he was a teenager) filed a lawsuit against Kelly accusing him of assault, false imprisonment, and a breach of contract that defrauded him of songwriting royalties. Vaughn claims Kelly and his associates dragged him to the basement of Kelly?s Olympia Fields home on February 19, 2006, and Kelly ?repeatedly struck him about the face and body with his fists." Vaughn also claims he gave Kelly the ?concept? for the song ?Steppin?. Kelly?s spokesman declared that Vaughn is merely trying to extort money and told reporters that a police investigation found no evidence to Vaughn?s assault allegations. Olympia Fields police confirmed that they had investigated the matter but would not comment beyond saying ?we didn?t file any charges in the case.?