The mark of a true artist is the ability to transcend genre and launch into creative diversity. It is just that kind of talent that allowed R. Kelly to strut away from last year’s Billboard Awards with four of its top laurels: Hot 100 Songwriter, R&B Songwriter, Hot 100 Producer, and R&B Producer.
That 2003 was an incredible ride for the multi-talented performer is an understatement — so much so that only Kelly could have closed that awards show with a flamboyant performance that had him riding down the aisle in a horse-drawn chariot!
Last year also marked the third consecutive time (2001, 2002, 2003) he received Top 10 Producer honors at the prestigious BMI Urban Awards. And in 2002, he was one of six to earn recognition as Songwriter of the Year. These days, it’s hard to identify a songwriter who also garners consistent acclaim as a No. 1 producer and multi-platinum recording artist.
That is the magic of R. Kelly.
Weaving steamy, ear-searing lyrics with dynamically sculpted production, his 2003 set, Chocolate Factory, blistered the charts, achieving multi-platinum status. During an era when one-hit-and-out tends to be the norm, Kelly’s body of work marks him as one of today’s most prolific artists.
As brilliant in front of the mike as behind a soundboard, Kelly has taken the deceptively difficult concept of writing “sexy” versus “sexually,” and parlayed it into an exceptional songwriting and performing career. His songwriting skills and production expertise are not restricted to the six solo albums he’s recorded.
Over the years, he’s gained equal acclaim as a writer, producer, and mixer for a cavalcade of fellow artists. His early work remixing “Anytime, Anyplace” by Janet Jackson helped it reach No. 1 laurels, as did his work on Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone.”
Other standout work included writing and producing “When You Call My Name,” by soul crooner Luther Vandross, “G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T.” for r&b act Changing Faces, and Toni Braxton’s “I Don’t Want To.” Additional credits on high-profile projects by Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, the Notorious B.I.G., Gladys Knight and Kirk Franklin cemented Kelly’s status.
The array of artists with whom he’s collaborated only hints at the creative diversity of which Kelly is capable. He became an international sensation when he wrote, produced and performed “I Believe I Can Fly,” the gospel-inspired anthem from the animated film Space Jam , which featured the voice of former NBA superstar Michael Jordan. In addition to going No. 1 on an array of international charts, “I Believe I Can Fly” soared at the 1998 Grammys, bringing Kelly Best R&B Song and Best R&B Male Vocal Performance honors
It was a defining moment for Kelly, who at the time described it as his greatest achievement, because it mattered most not just to him but to the world through the boundless possibilities it evoked.
It’s a safe bet that more defining creative moments are sure to come.