I’m not just talking about his ex-legal troubles or the preeminent breadth of his musical talent. This month’s “Interview” feature proves once again that R. Kelly is an entirely different kind of animal.
Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy) does the honors of probing R. Kelly in the new issue of “Interview.” The two musicians talk about knowing oneself (Kelly knows 50% of himself), lifestyle, and Kelly’s latest R&B Romance album “Love Letter,” reminding us, like Lil Wayne did in Rolling Stone last month, that when it comes to life experience, we have nothing in common with some of music’s most iconic fellas.
I like this version of R. Kelly. When his music is relatable (Every song in “Love Letter,” which came out in December is wholly accessible), it makes an eccentric interview all that much more entertaining. And as long as the self-proclaimed pied piper of R&B has a voice so buttery he can make fucking in a taxi cab sound like an act of romantic transcendency, I’ll keep buying his albums.
Besides, there are already too many musicians and actors trying to convince the reader that they’re “just like us.” Here are some gems about Kelly’s life that prove he’s nothing like you and me:
On “30 Rock”:
Not only has Kelly never watched “30 Rock,” he’s never even heard of the show. And he only vaguely recognizes Alec Baldwin as Steve Baldwin’s brother.
“Alec Baldwin? Yeah! Don’t he have a brother and they all kind of look alike?”
On an R. Kelly-style holiday party:
When R. Kelly wants to channel an R&B master from the ’60s, he doesn’t lock himself in his room with all his old 7″ records and dig up his black and white photos. He invites 1,000 people to his house to help him pretend to be the man.
I gave a Christmas party last year—well, two Christmases ago—where I did a Sam Cooke show. I didn’t perform as R. Kelly. I performed the Sam Cooke show from 1964… I invited, like, 1,000 people out to my house, and everybody had to be dressed like it was the ’60s. People had the long-stem cigarettes and the zoot suits and all that stuff, man…Built a stage and catwalk. I had the bulb lights and everything. I had tap dancers. I had a girl with me who sounded just like Billie Holiday. I had a guy who sounded just like Frank Sinatra. And then I did Sam Cooke. We had the marquee on the outside of the door, and I went and got old-school pictures of myself and we put them up like I was born back then and performing back then.
On being buddies with Muhammad Ali:
I hung out with Muhammad Ali. I went to the opening with him for the movie [Michael Mann’s Ali (2001)]… After every scene, he would lean in and whisper in my ear [lowers voice], “That didn’t happen. It’s bullshit.”
On his fear of flying:
Most people I know who fear flying mitigate their anxiety with a Klonopin and two over priced Bloody Marys. When R. Kelly was afraid of flying (to Europe for his 2001 tour), he charters a boat and takes a 7-day cruise to the continent.
They wanted me to go to Europe for a big tour, so I got on a boat. They said it was going to take seven days, so I’m cool. Seven days—that’s a vacation. We finally got over there on September 11, 2001, just as planes be goin’ into the buildings and the whole nine. And I was actually supposed to leave from New York that day to get on the plane to come there, but I was like, “No, I’m getting on the boat. It’s all good.” So all of this stuff went down.
Check out Kelly’s interview with “Interview” and Terry Richardson’s badass photos.