July 22, 2005
R Kelly, Creativity and (Supposed) Illiteracy
Joe Schloss on R Kelly:
Having finally seen/heard R. Kellyís opus "Trapped in the Closet", I was struck by a weird sensation of familiarity in the way the story is told. There was just something about the way the work is constructed that reminded of something, but I just couldnít place it. Then it finally struck me: it reminds of one of those stories that kids make up, before they have a sense of beginning, middle and end. One thing happens, then another thing happens, then another thing happens, then another thing, until eventually it just ends. Itís like he was making it up as he went along.
You're definitely not the only one, I was just talking about this with Phonte of Little Brother, who does a dead-on parody of Kells on his new album. It's easy to dismiss since he so often uses it in pursuit of the absurd, but be real: there's no denying R is one hell of an inventive and imaginative dude. I've always wondered how his illiteracy has influenced the path his imagination travels, and if/how it would be different if he had different tools to feed that creative mind..
(BTW Phonte said he and his boys started randomly adding "oh my god a rubber" into every conversation... like "This pizza is almost ready.. OH MY GOD A RUUUBBER!" or "Man, I think Karl Rove is gonna get indicted.. OH MY GOD A RUUUBBER!")
EDIT: When I read the article Joe linked, I noticed that despite the suggestive headline, R didn't actually say he can't read in the article, only that he's "not the best at reading and writing. I don't have no shame in saying that... Sometimes I don't feel my spelling is correct like everybody else's. I'm a little slower when it comes to things like that."
So I started to wonder if the idea that R is straight-up illiterate might be an urban myth of sorts, spawned by careless writers and then repeated so often it became "fact" in careless minds like my own.
And sure enough my friend Mightypen reports below: "Oh please. This is rubbish. I went to grade school and high school with him. He's no genius, that's for sure. But he is not "illiterate." Contrary to popular belief, the Chicago Public School system really WASN'T that bad. *rolls eyes*"