In the crowded musical genre of hip-hop, every artist needs something to set him or her apart. For R. Kelly, it is his sense of humor, best evidenced by “Trapped in the Closet,” a 33-part “hip hopera” in which Kelly played three of the main characters, including “Pimp Lucius.” His last two albums paid homage to the ’60s and contain soul music in the same vein as Sam Cooke.
Black Panties, Kelly’s newest release, serves as a return to form. Everything from the title, cover and content of the songs make for some of the most outrageous and entertaining material he has ever made, mainly because Kelly has decided to have some fun with modern rhythym and blues again.
Kelly has so much charisma and confidence that he can get away with saying things that would be impossible to take seriously from anyone else. On “Crazy Sex,” he avoids any pretense of using innuendos by inviting the subject of the song to “get ratchet in here” among other unmentionable acts. Many moments throughout the album will likely leave the listener feeling shocked, including the entirety of the single “Cookie.” The track uses the act of eating Oreos as a euphemism for sexual acts to unabashedly entertaining results. Along with most of the album, the song is so catchy that it makes up for how ridiculously graphic the lyrical content is.
While a lot of the songs are sexually explicit, including gems such as “Genius,” a lot of the album provides more radio-friendly fodder to varying degrees of success. “My Story,” the lead single, comes off as a bland autobiography, and “Spend That,” featuring Jeezy, sounds a little too much like generic club background music. His duet with Kelly Rowland on “All The Way” is interesting, but pales in comparison to tracks like “Shut Up,” where he directly addresses fans and critics alike after recovering from throat surgery, which shows that he is much more interesting when he showcases his personality.
Kelly takes pride in the fact that he is a performer and an entertainer. Midway through the record, he inputs a hilarious phone conversation between two characters, both voiced by Kelly, that leads directly into a track called “Marry The P---y,” which is as vulgar as its title suggests. Kelly has already proved that he can write great songs, but on Black Panties he is more concerned with furthering his image and displaying his prowess as an entertainer. While it may not be remembered as one of the best albums of 2013, it is definitely among the most fun to listen to.