Kelly, R.

Kelly, R.

▪ American musician
in full  Robert Sylvester Kelly 
born Jan. 8, 1967?, Chicago, Ill., U.S.

      American singer, songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist who became one of the best-selling rhythm-and-blues artists of the 1990s and early 2000s. Kelly is known for his gospel-tinged vocal delivery and highly sexualized lyrics.

      Kelly was raised in public housing projects in Chicago, and he was taught a powerful sense of Christian faith by his mother. His singing style has been described as “church-trained,” and, though faith has been a recurring theme in his lyrics, such early singles as “Sex Me” (1993) established carnality at the centre of his music. The tension between the sacred and the profane, along with the contrast of tough-guy persona and tender vocals, have been constants in his career. Kelly's debut album, Born Into the '90s (1992), delivered a smooth and melodic signature sound laced with hip-hop rhythms. Subsequent efforts achieved progressively greater success as Kelly's dominance of the rhythm-and-blues market translated into pop stardom. His ballad "I Believe I Can Fly" (1996) was a massive hit and earned three Grammy Awards, including best rhythm-and-blues song.

      Kelly had more Top 40 hits than any other male solo artist in the 1990s, including "Bump n' Grind" (1994), "You Remind Me of Something" (1995), and "I Can't Sleep Baby (If I)" (1996). However, his personal life was dogged by controversy, which came to a head in 2002 when the authorities came into possession of a videotape (first given to the Chicago Sun-Times by an anonymous source) that allegedly showed Kelly having sex with an underage girl. Kelly was soon indicted on multiple charges related to child pornography, though, as a result of a variety of circumstances, his trial did not begin until 2008. Over the long pretrial period, Kelly continued to release albums that, if anything, grew even more sexually explicit, though they also included songs of uplift, such as many of those on Happy People/U Saved Me (2004). Despite some initial public shock and backlash, most sold as well as his earlier releases (notably, Chocolate Factory achieved double-platinum status in 2003), and he remained one of the world's foremost rhythm-and-blues stars. On June 13, 2008, a three-week trial concluded with a jury's acquittal of Kelly on all charges.

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Universalium. 2010.

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