R Kelly is one of the comic geniuses of our times. Not convinced? See ‘Trapped In The Closet’, his 33-part online “hip hopera” (his phrase) featuring pimps, midgets and gay priests bound together in an intricate web of infidelity and deceit. If you don’t howl with laughter you have a medically diagnosable sense of humour failure.
Of course, Kelly is unaware of his God-given comic talent. He’s called his latest album, the follow-up to 2013’s ‘Black Panties’ (!), ‘The Buffet’ not because it’s a laughably crap title, but because it’s “just a variety of things”. It’s also the jumping off point for some industrial strength food-based sexual metaphors. Take opener ‘The Poem’, a spoken word piece in which Kelly promises to “toast” lady listeners’ “juices all night” and indulge his “bad eating habits” before making a five-second long slurping noise.
The beats are uniformly slinky-paced slow jams. The thudding kick drums, finger clicks and sparse synths are pretty much incidental to Kelly’s acrobatic vocals. ‘Marching Band’ adds some brass parts into the mix, giving Kelly the opportunity to declare “She blow me like a tuba / I beat it up like a snare drum / Every time we in the bedroom it be sounding like marching band”. Lil Wayne joins the party on the twitchy, downtempo banger ’Switch Up’, while Kelly’s daughter, under the name Arriraye, appears on ‘Wanna Be There’, a cavernous chopped’n’screwed beat drowned in watery sonics.
Ironically, one of the only songs that’s not X-rated is lead single ‘Backyard Party’, which is not about anal sex, as you’d be forgiven for thinking — this is R Kelly, after all — but rather having a barbecue. “I’m gonna throw something on the grill,” he croons over funked-up guitars. Even a permanently priapic 48-year-old needs some down time, it seems.
Maybe it’s because the whole sex-food thing is so overdone that the 18 tracks never drag, and it’s not often you can say that about a hip hop or R’n’B album. Just pray we don’t see him on Celebrity Come Dine With Me this year.
- Director: R Kelly
- Record label: RCA
- Release date: 11 Dec, 2015