R. Kelly Biography
Kelly has written, produced, and remixed songs and albums for many artists, including Aaliyah's 1994 debut album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number. In 1996, Kelly was nominated for a Grammy for writing Michael Jackson's song "You Are Not Alone". In 2002 and 2004, Kelly released collaboration albums with rapper Jay-Z and has been a guest vocalist for other hip hop artists like Nas, Sean Combs, and Fat Joe.
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has recognized R. Kelly as one of the best-selling music artists in the United States with 38.5 million albums sold as well as only the fifth black artist to crack the top 50 of the same list. In March 2011, R. Kelly was named the most successful R&B artist of the last 25 years by Billboard. Kelly has released 10 studio albums, sold 38.5 million albums in the U.S. and over 54 million albums worldwide making him the most successful R&B male artist of 1990s.
Born and raised on 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 Ida B. Wells Homes public housing project in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Kelly entered Kenwood Academy in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood in the fall of 1980 where he met his music teacher Lena McLin, who encouraged Kelly to perform the Stevie Wonder classic "Ribbon in the Sky" in a high school talent show. As a teenager, Kelly began street performing under the Chicago 'L' tracks before he eventually formed a group with his friend Marc McWilliams. In 1989, Kelly and McWilliams formed the group MGM (Musically Gifted Men). R. Kelly played high school basketball with the late high school basketball player Ben Wilson. He sang "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" at Ben Wilson's funeral after his shooting.
1991–94: Born Into the 90's and 12 Play
R. Kelly got his breakthrough in 1991 when he, along with Vincent Corey Walker and Shawnth Brooks, participated on the vocal talent TV show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. Kelly went on to win the $100,000 grand prize. Subsequently Kelly's debut album Born into the 90's was released in early 1992 (credited as R. Kelly and Public Announcement). Released during the new jack swing period of the early nineties, the album yielded the R&B 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. This would be the only album co-credited with Public Announcement. Kelly separated from the group in January 1993.
Kelly's first solo album, 12 Play, was released on November 9, 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 Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. Subsequent hit singles: "Your Body's Callin'" (U.S. Hot 100: #13, U.S. R&B: #2) and "Sex Me" (U.S. Hot 100: #20, U.S. R&B: #8). Both singles sold 500,000 copies in the United States and were certified Gold by the RIAA. In 1994, 12 Play was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), eventually going six times platinum.
Following the success of 12 Play, Kelly found himself in huge demand as a writer, producer, and mixer. On June 13, 1994, Kelly's protégé Aaliyah released her debut album titled Age Ain't Nothing But a Number which was entirely written and produced by R. Kelly. The album peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 and sold over three million copies in the United States. Age Ain't Nothing But a Number spawned two hit singles: "Back & Forth" (U.S. Hot 100: #5, U.S. R&B: #1); blocked Kelly's "Your Body's Callin' from the top spot and "At Your Best (You Are Love)" (U.S. Hot 100: #6, U.S. R&B: #2). Kelly also wrote and produced the female R&B duo Changing Faces first two hit singles, "Stroke You Up" (U.S. Hot 100: #3, U.S. R&B: #2) and "Foolin' Around" (U.S. R&B: #9). During this time, Kelly also became widely known for his remixes. He remixed his own songs, Bump N' Grind, Sex Me and "Homie Lover Friend", a remix featured on the A Low Down Dirty Shame (soundtrack) along with Aaliyah's song, "The Thing I Like" which was written and produced by Kelly, as well. Kelly remixed songs for other artists including Aaliyah, Barry White and Toni Braxton. He produced the popular remix for Janet Jackson's 1994 hit "Any Time, Any Place" and was featured on Jackson's remix album, Janet Remixed.
1995–96: R. Kelly and I Believe I Can Fly
In 1995, Kelly garnered his first-ever Grammy nominations; two nominations for writing, producing and composing Michael Jackson's last number one hit "You Are Not Alone". Kelly's success continued with the release of his second studio album, R. Kelly which was released on November 14, 1995 in the United States (see 1995 in music). Critics praised Kelly for his departure from salacious bedroom songs to embracing vulnerability. New York Time's Stephen Holden described Kelly as "The reigning king of pop-soul sex talks a lot tougher than Barry White, the father of such fluffed-up pillow talk and along with Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway, a major influence on Kelly." In December 1995, Professor Michael Eric Dyson critiqued Kelly's self-titled album for Vibe (magazine). Dyson described Kelly's growth from the 12 Play album: "Kelly reshapes his personal turmoil to artistic benefit" and noted that Kelly is "reborn before our very own ears."
The album reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming Kelly's first number one album on the chart, and reached number one on the R&B album charts; his second. R. Kelly spawned three platinum hit singles: "You Remind Me of Something" (U.S. Hot 100: #4, U.S. R&B: #1), "I Can't Sleep (Baby If I)" (U.S. Hot 100: #5, U.S. R&B: #1), and "Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)" (U.S. Hot 100: #4, U.S. R&B: #1); a duet with Ronald Isley. Kelly's self-titled album sold four million copies, thus receiving 4× 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 with 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 "Your Body's Callin'".), 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's dedication to music ("He's another person that I feel is married to his music. That's why we related so well.")
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 1998. Rolling Stone magazine named it as the 406th of its top 500 songs of all time.
1997–99: R. and Life Soundtrack
In 1997, Kelly fulfilled a longtime dream of his and signed a contract to play basketball with the Atlantic City Seagulls of the USBL. Kelly wore the number 12 in honor of his album 12 Play. Kelly said "I love basketball enough to not totally let go of my music, but just put it to the side for a minute, and fulfill some dreams of mine that I've had for a long time." Kelly's USBL contract contained a clause that would allow him to fulfill a music obligation when necessary. "If Whitney Houston needs a song written", Gross said, "he would be able to leave the team to do that and come back". "It wasn't a gimmick," said Ken Gross, the Seagulls owner who signed Kelly. "He's a ballplayer. He can play." Kelly is the first music artist to play professional basketball.
In 1998, Kelly released R., his fourth studio album and first double album. The album spans different genres from radio pop (Celine Dion), street rap (Nas and Jay-Z) to Blues ("Suicide"). It was released in the United States on November 17, 1998 (see 1998 in music). Dave Hoekstra of the Los Angeles Times described the album as "easily the most ambitious project of his career." R. is the first album that Kelly allowed other record producers to contribute on his album, as opposed to producing the entire album himself, and his first time collaborating with various artists on his album. The album remains Kelly's biggest selling album to date having sold 8 million copies in the United States and 4 million copies internationally.
R. reached number one on the R&B albums chart, becoming Kelly's third number one album to do so, and entered at number two on the Billboard 200 chart. It spawned Kelly's second number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100, "I'm Your Angel", a duet with Celine Dion and notable classics such as "When A Woman's Fed Up" (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop: #5) and "If I Could Turn Back The Hands of Time" (Hot 100: #12, UK: #2). The album also contains Kelly's international hit, "I Believe I Can Fly", which had been released two years prior on the Space Jam soundtrack.
In 1998, Kelly wrote and produced the debut album of his protégé Sparkle, which was released under his Rockland label and distributed through Interscope. In 2000,Sparkle went Platinum due to the success of the first single, "Be Careful", a duet featuring R. Kelly. Since the success of Space Jam's "I Believe I Can Fly", Kelly gained notoriety for penning songs to popular soundtracks such as Batman & Robin ("Gotham City") and Life ("Fortunate"). In 1999, Kelly wrote and produced, along with contribution from Wyclef Jean, the majority of the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence film Life. Kelly composed ten songs on the soundtrack, while Jean composed five.
2000–02: TP-2.COM and The Best of Both Worlds
As the year 2000 commenced, Kelly racked up a slew of new awards reflecting his status as an established R&B superstar. In January 2000, Kelly had won Favorite Male Soul/R&B Artist at the American Music Awards, and in February, was nominated for several Grammy Awards, including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance ("When a Woman's Fed Up"), Best R&B Album (R.), and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group ("Satisfy You") with P. Diddy.
On November 7, 2000, Kelly released his fifth studio album TP-2.com, an album harking back to his breakthrough album, 12 Play. Unlike Kelly's previous effort, R., all songs on TP-2.com was written, arranged, and produced entirely by Kelly. Allmusic's Jason Birchmeier rated TP-2.com with 4 stars and described Kelly's style: "Kelly knows how to take proven formulas and funnel them through his own stylistic aesthetic, which usually means slowing down the tempo, laying on lush choruses of strings and background vocals, taming down the lyrics for radio, and catering his pitch primarily to wistful women.
The album was Kelly's second album to peak at #1 on the Billboard 200 and the fourth to top the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. TP-2.com yielded the hits "I Wish" (U.S. Hot 100: #14, U.S. R&B: #1), "Feelin' On Yo Booty" (U.S. R&B: #9), and the remix to "Fiesta" (U.S. Hot 100: #6, U.S. R&B: #1), which featured Jay-Z.
In 2001, Kelly won the Outstanding Achievement Award at the MOBO Awards and Billboard magazine ranked TP-2.com at number 94 on the magazine's Top 200 Albums of the Decade.
"The World's Greatest", from the Ali soundtrack, was a hit, and Kelly performed at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. In 2001, Kelly began discussing the possibility of a joint album with Jay-Z after the positive reception of Jay-Z's "Guilty Until Proven Innocent", which featured Kelly and the remix to "Fiesta" which featured Jay-Z. In December 2001 at the Billboard Music Awards, Kelly confirmed the album's existence and announced the title of the album, The Best of Both Worlds. During this time, Kelly began working on the follow-up to his fifth studio album TP-2.com, titled Loveland.
On January 24, 2002, at the press conference announcing the The Best of Both Worlds completion, celebrities such as Johnnie Cochran, Russell Simmons, Ronald Isley and Sean Combs lined up to praise the album, with Jay-Z stating that he hoped the collaboration represents "more unity for black people on a whole." Black Electorate described the collaboration as "one of the greatest power moves in black music history." MTV's Shaheem Reid wrote: "And if Jay and Kelly can put their egos to the side long enough to wrap up and promote their album, then their labels — Def Jam and Jive, respectively — can surely figure out a way to join forces and make cheddar together. As determined by a coin toss, the album will be distributed on Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam in the U.S. and Canada, while Jive will handle distribution internationally."
When the joint album leaked on February 22, 2002 it caused the label, Roc-A-Fella, to push the album's release date up from the initial date, March 26, to March 19. Jay-Z expressed his frustration about the album leak to MTV News: "It's the gift and the curse. It's an honor that everybody wants your music fast, but on the other hand, it's another thing when the music gets out before you [want it to]. Because that's your art. You feel attached to it. You feel a certain way and you want people to go out and support it. The time that you take, it's like a piece of your life. You take parts of your life and you put it on these records and then for it to just be traded and moved around [is frustrating].
The release date for The Best of Both Worlds was eventually moved back to the initial date March 26. The album sold 285,000 copies in its opening week and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200.
In May 2002, Kelly's initial sixth studio album, Loveland, leaked and was delayed to release in November. Instead Kelly re-recorded the entire album, titled it Chocolate Factory and featured several of the bootlegged tracks on the bonus Loveland disc.
2003–05: Chocolate Factory, Happy People/U Saved Me and TP.3 Reloaded
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" were also popular singles. "Snake", incidentally, became the basis of the dancehall reggae riddim known as Baghdad. Later that year Kelly followed that success by releasing his first 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 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 were not 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.
In 2005, Kelly released his seventh studio LP, TP.3 Reloaded. The album included chapters of "Trapped in the Closet".
2007–09: Double Up and Untitled
On May 29, 2007, R Kelly released his eighth studio album Double Up, which 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 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 whom 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, Beyoncé Knowles' "If I Were a Boy" remix, T-Pain's "Chopped 'n' Skrewed" 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 was available on iTunes as a free download the first week it was released.
On June 3, 2009, Kelly released his first ever mixtape, The Demo Tape (Gangsta Grillz) presented by DJ Skee and DJ Drama as a way to reintroduce himself to fans.
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 was given a September 29, 2009 release date, but was delayed until October 13, 2009. The album release was again delayed and was released under Jive Records on December 1, 2009. It got mixed to positive reviews from critics. The single "Number One", which features Keri Hilson, peaked at #8 on the US R&B Chart.
Kelly performed for the first time in Africa headlining the Arise African Fashion Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa on June 20, 2009. Kelly scheduled to perform in Cape Town before heading to Nigeria as part of the annual ThisDay music and fashion festival in July. Kelly also performed in Kampala, Uganda in January 2010. He also scheduled to perform in London as part of his first international tour in eight years, but he did not make his London concert. "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."
In December 2009, Kelly teamed up with biographer David Ritz and Tavis Smiley's SmileyBooks publications to write his memoirs entitled Soulacoaster. SmileyBooks publisher and founder, Tavis Smiley stated that the memoir's main focus won't be on Kelly's trials and tribulations. Smiley was quoted saying "If anyone thinks this bookis going to fixate on [R. Kelly's trials], they are going to be sadly mistaken. It is going to be a holistic look at his life thus far and the life and legacy that he's building."
2010: Epic and Love Letter
Kelly performed the song "Sign of a Victory" at the 2010 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony on June 11, 2010.
On July 13, 2010, a song called "Tongues" surfaced, reportedly the lead single from Kelly's upcoming album Zodiac. The song is produced by Bangladesh and features Ludacris.
In an interview in the September 2010 issue of XXL magazine, Kelly mentioned that he is currently working on three new albums (Epic, Love Letter, and Zodiac) and detailed that the new material is basically him "remixing himself".
On September 13, 2010, Kelly released one of his three new albums, Epic. A collection of Kelly's most "epic" ballads, including five brand-new inspirational songs; the compilation was only released in Europe. In the September 2010 issue of XXL magazine, Kelly mentioned that the song Sign of Victory gave him the idea to do an international album called Epic.
In November 2010, Kelly collaborated with several African musicians forming a supergroup known as One8. The group features 2Face from Nigeria, Alikiba from Tanzania, Congolese singer Fally Ipupa, 4X4 from Ghana, hip-hop artist Movaizhaleine from Gabon, Zambia's JK, Ugandan hip-hop star Navio and Kenya's Amani, the only female in the group. The first release from the group is "Hands Across the World" written and produced by Kelly.
Kelly's latest album Love Letter was released on December 14, 2010 worldwide. The album includes 15 songs, the latter being a bonus track; a cover of Michael Jackson's You Are Not Alone, which was written and produced by Kelly as well. Love Letter has been critically acclaimed by music critics and highly praised by critics and fans alike. ABC News declared "The genius of R. Kelly has been resurrected and is on full display on Love Letter" The first single "When a Woman Loves" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. ABC News music critic named "When a Woman Loves" the best single of 2010 saying: "An absolutely stunning love song with a pitch-perfect vocal performance that will send chills down your spine — for the right reasons." The next single, "Love Letter" and "A Love Letter Christmas", the Christmas remix to "Love Letter", were released as singles on November 22, 2010. In promotion of the Love Letter album he performed at the 2010 Soul Train Music Awards and on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. All songs on the album were written and produced by Kelly.
2011: Throat surgery
On February 12 at the 2011 Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala in Los Angeles, Kelly performed a medley of hits including Happy People, When a Woman's Fed Up and Bump N' Grind, which brought Usher, Mary J. Blige and Katy Perry to their feet. Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times wrote "Kelly is a single-bound kind of leaper who dips into everything from soft porn to opera in his music. His supreme chutzpah, a quality he shares with Streisand, allows him to feel secure within pop's traditions while taking them wherever he pleases. He made Davis' musical program, which at times got lost amid the chatter of the A-list crowd, come alive. It was all so simple then: an instant when one of pop's key traditional elements, that determination to wow, took on new dimension in the hands of an expert."
In March 2011, Kelly was named the #1 R&B artist of the last 25 years by Billboard. In his career Kelly has amassed 35 top 10 hits and 11 #1 hits on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
On July 19, 2011, Kelly was rushed to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to undergo emergency throat surgery. He cancelled his heavily advertised performance at the Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica that was scheduled the following Friday. In a statement the organizers said, "Kelly's unforeseen and unavoidable health issues will prevent him from making a scheduled appearance on the music festival." Johnny Gourzong, Sumfest Productions executive director, also commented, saying, "We are truly going to miss his presence on the festival." On July 20, 2011, in a press release, representatives for R. Kelly explained that he was rushed to the hospital to drain an abscess on one of his tonsils and "will be laid up for an indefinite amount of time". Shortly after, Kelly tweeted fans "I WILL BE BACK!" he promised and "I'd like to thank everybody for their love, concern and support." On July 21, 2011, Kelly's spokesman, Allan Mayer, reported that Kelly was released from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and is recuperating at home. It was not immediately clear when Kelly might be well enough to resume performing. On July 21, 2011, in a video message to fans, Kelly spoke out for the first time since throat surgery and reassured his fans that he's doing well. He said "Yo what's up, y'all, it's your boy Kellz, fresh out the hospital. Just want to say thanks to my fans for supporting me. I want to say thanks to all the prayer warriors out there for supporting me."
On September 23, 2011, Variety confirmed that Kelly has signed on to write original music for the Sparkle soundtrack. On April 25, 2011, Director Salkim Akli was quoted saying, "Hopefully, R. Kelly will come on and do some of the music for the film. His latest music sounds like it came from a time period. Here's a guy who can write about a woman being a jeep to 'I Believe I Can Fly' and he's an artist. Whether you like him or dislike him, I love artists, and I know that he will just go deep into it and come up with something unique."
On October 7, RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding Jive Records along with Arista Records and J Records. With the shutdown, Kelly (and all other artists previously signed to these three labels) will release his future material on the RCA Records brand.
On November 10, 2011, Kelly tweeted to fans "It's been a long time coming but I finally feel a lot better about my throat since the surgery and this is the first song I wrote." followed with "Enjoy!" and a link to a song titled "Shut Up". In the song, Kelly addresses the people who doubted his ability to comeback after the surgery and the rumors that surrounded him while he was in recovery. Reviews for "Shut Up" were generally positive: Spin (magazine) wrote, "Kelly taking aim at the haters who said "he's washed up, he's lost it." He hasn't. Dude's voice is in prime smooth R&B form". Prefix (magazine) writer, Andrew Winistorfer described the song as "vintage Kelly: It's all runs in the verses, falsetto in the middle, and randomly placed vitriol.
On December 21, 2011, Kelly made a live appearance on The X Factor (U.S.) and gave his first performance since undergoing emergency throat surgery in the summer. He sang his classic hit "I Believe I Can Fly" with finalist Melanie Amaro and received positive reviews from critics. Kelly revealed to Rolling Stone that he felt like he was "just starting out" and how the performance was a "wake up call" for him.
His memoir entitled Soulacoaster was released in the Summer of 2012.
2012: Write Me Back and Trapped in the Closet Revival
On January 31, 2012, Kelly revealed in a radio interview that he's releasing a follow-up to the Love Letter album titled Write Me Back. The album is a mix of Kelly's previous albums; Love Letter, Happy People and a little bit of TP-2.Com. On February 1, 2012, Kelly released the first single, "Share My Love", off Write Me Back, followed by “Feelin’ Single”. The album will be released on June 26.
On February 18, 2012, R. Kelly performed at Whitney Houston's memorial. Kelly performed the ballad I Look to You, a song he wrote for Whitney that she released on July 23, 2009. The song was included in her seventh and final studio album, also titled I Look to You. After singing the song he said, "We love you Whitney. Rest in Peace." before leaving the stage.
On March 20, 2012, IFC announced a third installment of the "Trapped in the Closet" will be coming soon. The new chapters aired on IFC on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
On June 26, 2012, Kelly released his eleventh studio album, Write Me Back.
On August 31, 2012, Kelly announced The Single Ladies Tour featuring R&B singer, Tamia.
On September 1, 2012, the Japanese branch of retail chain HMV revealed Kanye West's Cruel Summer track list. Kelly is featured alongside Kanye West on the opening song entitled "To The World".
2013–present: Black Panties
Throughout 2013, R. Kelly has been continuing his "The Single Ladies Tour". He has also been performing at a variety of music festivals across North America, including Bonnarro, Pitchfork, and Macy's Music Festival. On June 30, 2013, R. Kelly performed live at BET Awards Show for the first time in many years, singing a medley of his hits as well as a snippet of his new track "My Story" featuring Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz. This was followed by news that Kelly was releasing the song as the lead single for his upcoming twelfth studio album Black Panties. The album itself will be officially released on December 10, 2013.
During this time, R. Kelly also collaborated with a variety of artists. He co-wrote and is featured on Lady Gaga's song "Do What U Want" from her 2013 album Artpop. R. Kelly performed his duet with Lady Gaga for the first time on Saturday Night Live on November 16, 2013. The two are also scheduled to perform the song live again at the 2013 American Music Awards. He also collaborated with Birdman and Lil Wayne on the Rich Gang albums second single and on Twista's first single on his new album "Dark Horse". Music videos have been produced for both singles. At midnight on November 17, R. Kelly and Justin Bieber debuted their first collaboration entitled "PYD".
R. Kelly was also featured on the soundtrack album of the film The Best Man Holiday with his song "Christmas, I'll Be Steppin'".
On a interview with Global Grind on November 15, R. Kelly stated that he has a song that he is gonna be servicing to Celine Dion and it could be there first song together after the number one single "I'm Your Angel" in 1998. He also confirmed that Trapped in the Closet is going to Broadway and that he's working on making movies and also more chapters for his Hip Hopera, telling his fans that they will see a lot going on for him in past two or three years and more. He is also working with singer Mariah Carey for her new upcoming album "The Art of Letting Go".
He has also been featured on a couple of remixes of well known songs this year, for example: "Gorilla (G-Mix)" with Bruno Mars and Pharrell, "U.O.E.N.O." by Rocko, "Trying to Be Cool" with Phoenix, "Clean this House" by Gospel singer Isacc Carree, "Dirty Laundry" by Kelly Rowland, and "Representin" by Ludacris featuring himself and Fabolous.