Album review: '12 Play, 4th Quarter,' by R. Kelly

Adam Huber

OK, here’s the thing about R. Kelly.

Anyone who has seen the hilarious “Trial of R. Kelly” episode of Cartoon Network’s “The Boondocks” will have a difficult time hearing his music without also immediately recalling one of the show’s main characters justifying the behavior for which Kelly was recently acquitted (he was accused of child pornography, with prosecutors alleging that he videotaped himself having sex with and urinating on a 15-year-old girl;  he was found not guilty in June):

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: But what about the victim?

RILEY: “Ahh yes… the victim. At what point does personal responsibility enter into this equation? I see [urine] coming, I move. She saw [urine] coming, she stayed. And why should I have to miss out on the next R. Kelly album just for that?!?”

The episode was satirizing the public’s forgiveness when it comes to celebrity indiscretion, showing Kelly’s music literally casting a spell over his fans and causing them to forget he was alleged to have recorded himself committing statutory rape.

That’s the atmosphere into which Kelly drops his latest album, "12 Play, 4th Quarter." The title is a reference to his breakthrough solo album, "12 Play," where he showed an uncanny ability to turn a graphic sex song into something that seemed almost romantic.

Kelly’s sound has been described elsewhere as “baby-making music,” and that hits the nail right on the head. His albums are full of slow-grinding rhythms and lyrics that rarely vary from one of two topics: what R. Kelly’s going to do to his girl, and what he’s going to do to your girl if your game isn’t on point.

And a lot of it is enjoyable R&B. But considering he just got out of a statutory rape trial by the skin of his teeth, choruses with lines like “Shorty is a screamer” can induce a bit of a cringe.

But most other R. Kelly discs balanced the syrupy-sweet love ballads with a little more uptempo, bouncy fare; not here. The only two songs that up the BPMS come at the very end, with “Playas Get Lonely,” and what has come to be known as the The Obligatory R. Kelly Album-Ending Spiritually-Uplifting Song – which began with “I Believe I Can Fly” and has continued with every album since.

And if you’re in the mood for trendiness, there’s plenty of T-Pain-style Auto-Tune effects to be had.

Classic R. Kelly records had a curious way of balancing the slow-ballad and the street, the profane and the sacred.

These days, even though he can still craft decent R&B, he’s become more of a passé punchline.

Sussex Countian