Childhood & Early Life
R. Kelly was born on January 8, 1967, in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He and his three siblings were raised by their mother Joanne in the Baptist church, where she served as the lead singer of the choir.
The family lived in poverty and struggled to make ends meet. Kelly started singing as part of the church choir when he was eight.
He had a very difficult childhood as he was often sexually abused by a woman. In his 2012 autobiography ‘Soulacoaster,’ he had penned down his experience and the reason why he never told about his ordeal to anyone. When he was 11, he was shot in the shoulder while riding his bike home.
He had an untreated learning disability, which made it difficult for him to read and write. Eventually, he had to drop out of high school.
He studied at the ‘Kenwood Academy’ in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. He was an athletic young boy and played basketball for his high school team. However, his music teacher Lena McLin, who had recognized his musical talent, advised him to leave the sport and focus on music.
He was very close to his mother, who took him to church and clubs where she performed. She died of cancer in 1993.
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Kelly gained recognition in 1989 when he, along with Marc McWilliams, Shawn Brooks, and Vincent Walker, participated in the TV show ‘Big Break,’ where he went on to win the $100,000 grand prize.
As a youngster, he formed the group ‘MGM’ (Musically Gifted Men) along with his friends Marc McWilliams, Vincent Walker, and Shawn Brooks. In 1990, ‘MGM’ recorded and released their first single, ‘Why You Wanna Play Me’ and disbanded shortly after.
In 1992, Kelly released his debut album ‘Born into the 90’s’ along with a musical group named ‘Public Announcement.’ The album produced several hit songs and was eventually certified platinum
Kelly's first solo album, ‘12 Play,’ was released in November 1993. His song ‘Bump N' Grind’ peaked at number one for 12 weeks on the ‘Billboard Hot R&B Singles’ chart.
His self-titled album ‘R. Kelly’ was out in 1995. Featuring introspective lyrics and foot-tapping music, this album became a huge hit and spawned three number one singles – ‘You Remind Me of Something,’ ‘Down Low (Nobody Has to Know),’ and ‘I Can't Sleep (Baby If I).
Kelly signed a contract to play professional basketball with the ‘Atlantic City Seagulls’ of the ‘United States Basketball League’ (USBL) in 1997.
In 1998, he released ‘R,’ which would become one of his most commercially successful albums. It also received highly positive critical reviews and earned many awards and nominations
Kelly wrote and produced the majority of the soundtrack of the 1999 comedy-drama film ‘Life,’ starring Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence
The album ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ sold 285,000 copies in its opening week and debuted at number two on the ‘Billboard 200.
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His album, ‘Chocolate Factory’ (2003) debuted at number one on the ‘U.S. Billboard 200’ chart. It became a huge international success and over three million copies of the album were sold worldwide. It also received rave reviews from publications, such as ‘The New York Times’ and ‘USA Today.
In 2005, he released the album ‘TP.3 Reloaded’ which became his fourth number-one hit on the ‘Billboard 200’ album chart. It featured songs like ‘In the Kitchen,’ ‘Reggae Bump Bump,’ ‘Happy Summertime,’ and ‘Slow Wind.’
His 2007 album ‘Double Up’ featured the single ‘I’m a Flirt Remix’ which peaked at No. 1 on the ‘Hot Rap Tracks’ chart. The album featured prominent artists like Swizz Beatz, Snoop Dogg, Nelly, Chamillionaire, T.I., T-Pain, Usher, Huey, Ludacris, and Kid Rock.
Kelly released his first-ever mixtape ‘The Demo Tape (Gangsta Grillz)’ in June 2009.
In 2010, his album ‘Love Letter’ was out. Known for his sexually explicit themes, Kelly surprised his audience with this album as he had written lyrics on love and forgiveness. This album too became a big hit like his previous albums.
Kelly performed the song ‘Sign of a Victory’ at the 2010 ‘FIFA World Cup’ opening ceremony in June 2010.
In March 2011, he was named the number one R&B artist of the last 25 years by ‘Billboard.’ In that same year, Kelly was rushed to the ‘Northwestern Memorial Hospital’ in Chicago to undergo throat surgery.
Kelly made a live appearance on ‘The X Factor’ and gave his first performance since undergoing throat surgery in the summer. He sang his classic hit ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ with finalist Melanie Amaro.
He returned to sexually charged themes with his 2013 album, ‘Black Panties.’ The album debuted at No. four on the ‘Billboard 200’ chart and received mixed reviews from the critics.
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In October 2016, Kelly presented his first Christmas album and fourteenth studio album ‘12 Nights of Christmas,’ which was initially scheduled to be released in late 2014.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Andrea, his former backup dancer, in 1996. The couple has three children. They divorced in 2009 after almost 13 years of marriage.
Videos of Kelly engaging in sexual acts with a minor girl surfaced in 2002 and he was indicted in Chicago on 21 counts of child pornography.
In July 2017, Kelly was accused of forcing girls to stay in an ‘abusive cult.’
In May 2018, the ‘Women of Color’ branch of the ‘Time's Up’ movement called for a boycott of Kelly's music and performances over the many allegations against him. The boycott was accompanied by a social media campaign called ‘Mute R. Kelly.’
On March 6, 2019, Kelly was taken back to the ‘Cook County Jail’ after failing to pay $161,633 in child support. On March 9, 2019, he was released after someone, who didn't want to be identified, paid off the child support.
Kelly's music has been used in many film soundtracks, including ‘American Reunion,’ ‘The Hangover Part III,’ ‘Ice Age: The Meltdown,’ and ‘Fun with Dick and Jane.’ He has also been featured in video games, including ‘Grand Theft Auto IV.’ Many hip hop and R&B artists have sampled his music.