When he shelves his obsession with opening your legs and opens his mind, that he is capable of making thought-provoking material...

Oh dear, where to begin with [a]R Kelly.[/a]. The title? Yes, a little awkward but it means ‘Twelve Play Part 2’, a resumption of the soulful carnality [a]Kelly[/a] began back in 1993 with the sexual concept album, ’12 Play’.

Now, as then, its hard not to laugh and take offence at [a]Kelly[/a]’s creative manifesto. For while ‘TP-2.Com’ excretes [a]Kelly[/a]’s sexual polemic, it simultaneously belittles his musical skills. He is, after all, an adept lyricist capable of giving voice to those frustrated with their unfulfilling lives who look to their relationships for complete fulfilment. But listening to ‘Strip For You’, ‘R&B Thug’, ‘Feelin’ On Yo’ Booty’, ‘Only You’ and ‘The Greatest Sex’ doubts that. It presents [a]Kelly[/a] as nothing more than a sexually obsessed man-child who brags about being as hard as a brick who assumes women will queue up for him to rip the shit out of you. On more than one occasion throughout ‘TP-2.Com’ Kelly endorses rough, bloodsport-inspired sex. Thankfully this offensive banality doesn’t continue for long. And that’s when things become interesting.

From the rolling Spanish guitar that opens ‘Fiesta’ (produced by LL Cool J, Nas and Foxy Brown production team Trackmasterz), to the delightful two-step tempo that underpins ‘All I Really Want’, it becomes immediately apparent that [a]Kelly[/a] is a melody musician. In the contemporary R&B landscape currently dominated by Sheks’peare and Rodney Jerkins, [a]Kelly[/a] shows how easy it is to keep it simple, melodious and un-synthesised; and on these occasions, [a]Kelly[/a]’s lyrics come to the fore. Accordingly, the ominous ‘A Woman’s Threat’ shows that [a]Kelly[/a] was keeping one of those ‘ghetto’ anthems for himself (remember Changing Faces‘G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T’ and Sparkle‘s ‘Be Careful’) On it he shows us all how tenuous our position in the lives of another is; that our presence, our love, our value can be so easily replaced by another. He explores this further on ‘I Don’t Mean It’, in which he speaks to the faceless woman/women who put up with his moodiness, his controlling nature and difficulty to fully give himself, all of which bring us neatly to that other staple [a]Kelly[/a] angle: guilt.

While [a]Kelly[/a] fights the burdens of fame on ‘I Wish’, he also speaks of the pain he endures having survived his deceased mother and his realisation that leaving poverty has lead to a wealthy isolation. These weighty subjects are revisited on the remix of ‘I Wish’ where, with emotive clarity, [a]Kelly[/a] reveals his survivor’s guilt at outliving a childhood friend, all of which prove that when he shelves his obsession with opening your legs and opens his mind, that he is capable of making thought-provoking material.

Jacqueline Springer