Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 12.54.58 AMR. Kelly Returns With a 12 Play album for the Younger Generation. 20+ Years In the Game and Not Missing A Step, R. Kelly shares insight into his new album Black Panties (in stores Dec. 10) in an intimate private listening session.

Strolling in all black, drink in hand, gold rope chain dangling, it was clear that R. Kelly was confident about his project and this listening session was purely a formality, more like a victory lap. And why shouldn’t he be confident? After 10+ albums, multiple Grammy Awards, countless songwriting credits, and surviving numerous controversies in the media, R. Kelly has proven he is a legend in his own right and has no plans of relinquishing the mic any time soon. He joked with the room, “Y’all may not feel me like I feel me right now.”, as he prepared to introduce his new album “Black Panties.” He even took the time to explain why he chose to wear leather gloves to the session claiming that, “it’s about to be a murder scene and I don’t wanna leave any evidence”, and with that he pressed play and proceeded to perform every song he presented as if in front of a sold out crowd.

First thing R. Kelly wants you to know about the new album is that it’s not simply a “nasty” or “raunchy” album, but an exploration of “love-making” and how we express love physically. Secondly, if you plan on buying this album looking for the 60’s inspired R. Kelly present on past projects like “Love Letter” (2010), you won’t find him. He poked fun at his past success saying, “I think I did the “Love Letter” a little too good, Cause people was like, that’s who I am now”. No, this R. Kelly is closer to a combination of “Double Up” R. Kelly and “TP.3 Reloaded” R. Kelly, which is to say the sound of the album pulls from some of the current trends in Hip-Hop and R&B, and throws a bit of Auto-Tune into the mix. What makes the album so enticing and re-instates R. Kelly as a musical giant is his ability to re-create the current trends, but maintain the qualities that have kept the music world captive with his voice for so long. He called the album “the new 12 Play”, saying that he wanted to revisit one of his classic albums in a more current setting. R. Kelly’s doesn’t hold back with his patented writing style on this record, refusing to shy away from the more risqué details of what happens when the lights go out. His unbelievable voice and gift for vocal acrobatics make even the raunchiest lyrics acceptable.

The album has a little bit of everything; “Leg Shaking ”  and “Throw Money on You” act as the strip club anthems for the album, while “You Deserve Better” encourages women to know their worth and not settle. R. Kelly connects with the fellas on tracks like, “Right Back (To My Niggas)” and 
“Spend That” Feat. Young Jeezy. R. Kelly gets personal and fires shots at critics on his “Shut Up” record; the record touches on his throat surgery in 2011 and even boast the claim that every baby made in the 90’s onward probably owes him a bit of thanks for their existence. And no R. Kelly record would be finished without a couple records to get you in the mood, which is where tracks like “Cookies” and “Crazy Sex” fit in, while “All the Way Ft. Kelly Rowland” gives the fans a taste of the role-play duets that R. Kelly has become known for.

R. Kelly continued to reiterate the amount of time he took to study the trends of the radio and the direction that music and artist seem to be taking, before creating the album. When I sat down with him and asked which artists had his ear and went towards his research for the direction of the album, he replied, “I was listening to everybody, man. From Rick Ross, to Future, to Trey Songz, to The Dream. Ya know, I listened to some of everybody including myself, ya know, some old school R. Kelly and that’s how I was able to tap back into R. Kelly’s music and the genre. Back when R&B was hot, and sexual, and it was fun, and it was partying, it was all that in one.” He went on to talk about his experience working with a younger generation of artist such as Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, and Jeremih saying, “ It’s amazing, man, because the beauty of being legacy, or a legend, and having longevity is you actually get to see your work in other people. Not meaning they copied me, or stole my style, or anything like that. But you can see the influence whether it be by melody or somewhat of a style similarity or whatever. But, you get to see that, you get to see the influence you’ve had on people. Ya know, my mother used to say, “You’re not great until you can make others great”, so to be able to see that makes it all worth it, doing it all over again”. And regardless of how you feel about the man, you have to agree as many artists such as The Dream and The Weeknd have cited him as an influence in their music.

So, in the meantime, in between time, while fans wait on “Black Panties” to drop on December 10, R. Kelly has been busy and can be found on the various collaborations, such as “Do What U Want” (found on Lady Gaga’s new Artpop album), Bruno Mar’s “Gorilla G-Mix”, and he has even confirmed a Justin Bieber record is soon to be released. Those are more than enough features to keep you busy, while you wait on the album.

(Photo Credit:  Andrew Fennell)

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We also caught up with R. Kelly on Monday evening at the New York premiere of “Best Man Holiday,” which was presented by MARTINI Sparkling Wines, Verizon and Samsung Galaxy. He is featured on the film’s original soundtrack. Check out what he had to say:

-JT Tarpav