DAR Music: Ranking R. Kelly's Albums

By @TrueGodImmortal

R. Kelly is a legend. He's one of the all time legends in R&B music, and though he's had his share of interesting situations through his career, his music is what we all know of him and what we champion. His personal misfortunes, horrid mistakes, and his overall creepy demeanor don't take away from his musical genius. Today, I wanted to look at his extensive album catalog and rank his albums from the worst to the best (this includes his collab projects with Jay-Z.... I'm sorry). Let's get into it.

16. Unfinished Business(2004)

-The 2nd installment of Best of Both Worlds is the worst release to come from R. Kelly hands down. Though he's a legend in this business, and so is Jay-Z, this album was the personification of underwhelming and disappointing. BIG CHIPS! Man... the less said about this, the better. Probably one of the most unnecessary projects of the 2000s. Though, it did spawn the whole hilarious pepper spray by Ty-Ty ordeal, and the whole "Kelly saw a man with a gun while performing" debacle. That's worth more than this terrible album at least.

15. The Buffet (2015)

-It's safe to say that a majority of the R. Kelly music released in the 2000s and 2010s has been hit or miss. For every great release, there's two bad ones, and while this one has a moment or two of dopeness like any R. Kelly album, it lacks an overall appeal and feel of what he needs to be doing musically nearing the age of 50. Kelly is seemingly still trying to compete with the younger guys for the ladies affection, and in turn, we get appearances from Ty Dolla Sign, Jhene Aiko, Tinashe, Lil Wayne, and Juicy J, but this feels more like your drunken uncle trying to hit on your homegirl who just got home from college, which is 100% accurate considering who is singing these songs. I'll say "All My Fault" and "Poetic Sex" are decent listens, but the rest of the album drags on. Badly.

14. Untitled (2009)

-I actually like a few songs on this album. It's just overall, this album brings nothing new or nothing special. Much like many of his albums in the 2000s, Kelly sticks to his tried and true formula, and this time, it misses the mark pretty badly. My favorite song on this album is "Bangin the Headboard", which is your standard R. Kelly sex song, but this time with Autotune. There's the Keri Hilson assisted "Number One", which is probably the biggest single from this album, but the rest once again falls flat. Kelly has classics under his belt and some solid albums, but this was not one of them. I'd download a few of these songs and discard the rest of the album.

13. Best of Both Worlds (2002)

-I want to rank this higher. I really do. I personally love this album. It represents a time in my life when I was in school and finally coming of age so to speak. This was the album we used to recite lyrics of in class, acting like fools, yelling out "BESTTTTT OFFFF BOTH WORLDS..... OOOOHHH" just because or rapping Jay's verse on "Take You Home With Me A.K.A. Body", just because of the opening few lines. I loved this album, but when considering actual quality, it's low in the catalog and disappointing. I think the usage of Trackmasters all album hurt them in replay value because when I go back and listen, my first thought is "Man, I wish they used some better production", as I feel like some more in depth songs produced by Just Blaze or Kanye would have worked with the vocals of Kelly. However, this album worked for what it was and it's still enjoyable to me, just not one of the best projects from Kelly.

12. Happy People/U Saved Me (2004)

-Alright Robert. Cut the shit. After your debacle with the pissing on a young girl video, you decide to go to this whole "I Believe I Can Fly, Lord Help Me Please" image again to try and make yourself seem better by design. He had won big with "Step In the Name of Love", so he makes a damn double album of step songs on one disc and gospel type songs on disc 2. Man, please. 11 songs of Step In the Name of Love rejects and 10 gospel songs? Look, the songs weren't bad. They weren't bad at all, but it was overkill. This album would be lower if it wasn't for the fact this album had decent songs, just far too repetitive.

11. Black Panties (2013)

-This album holds a special place in my heart for one song and one song only. "Marry The Pussy". I almost put this album in the top 10 just off that one song. When you look at Kelly and you think about his funniest yet most scumbag moments musically, this is up there at the top. The album itself is.... alright, nothing special as per usual with his 2000s and 2010s releases mostly, but I enjoyed a few songs here like the aforementioned "Marry The Pussy", "Tear It Up", "Show Ya Pussy", "My Story", and maybe one or two more. These songs are senseless and stupid, but they are actually fun and don't come off as Kelly trying too hard, but rather him just having fun and being as comedic as possible. It works in some areas, but doesn't work in others, the norm for half of Kelly's albums in general.

10. TP-3 Reloaded (2005)

-I have a love/hate relationship with this album. It's really not a bad album, and although it's easily the worst of the TP albums, it was the starting point for one of the greatest moments in modern day music, film, theater, or just plain foolery in the "Trapped In The Closet" series. I loved the first 5 chapters of Trapped In The Closet, but I also enjoyed some others on this album like the hilarious "Sex In the Kitchen", "Sex Weed", "Slow Wind", and "Put My T-Shirt On". There were a few songs I could do without, but overall this was a good album. I thought it was a solid listen, but it didn't live up to being the 3rd chapter of the 12 Play series.

9. Double Up (2007)

-This album has taken some flack, but I love it. I remember buying this album when it first came out, and I would play some of the songs over and over again. It was just Kelly at his most entertaining, with songs like "I'm A Flirt", "Same Girl", "Freaky In the Club", "Leave Your Number", "Real Talk", and "Best Friend" providing the perfect amount of comedy and smoothness, making this one of the more balanced albums from Kelly, despite some criticism. He does what he does best here, and while he doesn't create a flawless album here or even close to it, he does create something dope.

8. Write Me Back (2012)

-This was when he went through that whole.... "hey I'm older now" phase before eventually going back to being a dirty old man trying to compete with the young bucks. Honestly, Kelly should have stayed in this traditional R&B and throwback soul lane, as it suited him well, because this album is actually dope as hell. I remember laughing at first when I heard "Share My Love", but I wasn't laughing a day later when it was stuck in my head. The same goes for the smooth "Feelin Single", "Green Light", and the dope "Fool For You". Kelly creates what feels like a mature album, something that I never would have expected from the same man who one of his previous albums remarked "she be calling me daddy, and I be calling her mommy, she be calling you Kelly, when your name is Tommy". Growth? Maybe. Marketing ploy to fit with his age and try to change his image? More than likely. Still, the music was dope and that's what matters the most.

7. Born Into The 90's (1992)

-Ah, the days of New Jack Swing. When the sounds of Guy, Bobby Brown, New Edition, and many other great artists took over the world and shook up the music scene. I could mention how R. Kelly essentially became Aaron Hall Jr. after the New Jack Swing Era began dying down, but instead, I'll just discuss this album he released with Public Announcement in 1992. Some of my favorite songs from Kelly are featured here, as the title track, "She's Got That Vibe", and the hit single "Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ)" truly set the tone for the album. However, nothing compared to the epic slow jam sounds of the sensual hit "Honey Love". It's still a top 10 R. Kelly song to me hands down, possibly top 5. This album has very little weak spots and is a true glimpse into the legend that Kelly would become, as he handled writing and production duties on every song here.

6. Love Letter (2010)

-The beginning of the maturation of R. Kelly that lasted two albums. However, the overly sexual message of his albums was missing here, as the focus shifted to Kelly and his talent as a composer, an arranger and vocalist. It's probably his most daring album and his most risky, but it paid off in a big way. He takes us back to the Motown sound in some way, along with a bit of a soul jazz vibe also, as evidenced on the hit song "When A Woman Loves", but also on "Radio Message", "Just Can't Get Enough", the title track, and "Number One Hit". I definitely loved the sounds and the vocal arrangements for Kelly on this album and it is probably his most slept on album of his catalog. Years from now, this might be considered an underrated classic. It certainly deserves that distinction.

5. R. (1998)

-Only Kelly could make a jumbled double album work and sound almost flawless. I don't know how he did it to be completely honest with you. I just know that a young True loved this album, all the singles and everything that was presented here. With his singles from movie soundtracks "I Believe I Can Fly" and "Gotham City" both included here, this album felt like a few years in the making and it was. Each disc has a certain feel to it and a majority of the songs are truly infectious. The other singles on this album are truly timeless from the somber yet somehow comical "If I Could Turn Back The Hands of Time" to the slow groove of "Half On A Baby" to the honest and real lyrics in "When A Woman's Fed Up" to the Puffy assisted "Did You Ever Think", all the way down to the Keith Murray assisted "Home Alone" party starter, this double album had all we could ask for. And then some. 8 million copies in the US sold and 13 million copies worldwide don't lie.

4. Chocolate Factory (2003)

-Sometimes an album comes along at the right time. And this is that album. Kelly was in the middle of his public scandal, seemingly having the world turn on him and rightfully so, but he responded with what he does best: music. I loved everything about this album and there aren't many tracks to skip here, maybe two or three. The best songs here are of course "Ignition" and the epic remix to it, the huge step jam "Step In the Name of Love" and the epic remix to that as well, along with the silly yet smooth "Showdown" with Ronald Isley, and the dope joint "Snake". This album is definitely one of his best and could honestly be considered a classic. It's a comeback album after being knocked down by the media for his own stupid transgression.

3. TP-2.com (2000)

-I believe there are three undeniably classic R. Kelly albums over his career. This is one of them. He creates this R&B thug persona that's pretty hard to buy honestly, but it works on this album regardless. There's ballads, dedications, smooth late night anthems, and everything in between honestly. This is probably a more complete and diverse album than the first 12 Play, it's just not better than the first one overall. Still a classic however, and how could you go wrong with "I Wish", "Fiesta", "I Decided", "A Woman's Threat", "Like A Real Freak", and of course, the classic "Feelin On Yo Booty", which is truly a top 5 Kelly song without a doubt. An amazing album in general, and easily one of his best. It's just hard to top these first two, though TP-2 did come very close anyways.

2. R. Kelly (1995)

-I wanted to put this one at no. 1 because at its core, it's better than the original 12 Play. It's less raunchy and nasty, but still sexual in its general tone, which is where I think Kelly is underrated at. Being the almost perverted Kelly on slow tracks is his strong suit sadly enough, but on this album, he gives more depth and introspection, making a classic in the process. The epic "Down Low" saga begins here with the amazing video and the great rhythm and back and forth between Ron Isley and Kelly. On top of that, the sounds of "Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby...", "Step Into My Room", "I Can't Sleep Baby", the seductive "Tempo Slow", and the true classic "You Remind Me of Something" all make this a complete album that is knocking right on the door of the no. 1 spot and it's personally my no. 1 R. Kelly album just based on quality alone. However, it doesn't quite have the legacy that the no. 1 choice does, but it does have 5 million copies in sales.

1. 12 Play (1993)

-Of course, this is no. 1, I mean is there REALLY any question here? Well, aside from the self titled album, nothing really has the legacy or feel of this album. Quality wise, it's a great album, and a true classic in general, with some of the best bedroom anthems of all time hands down.  What are some of the most special songs on this album? Well, you'd have to start at the opening track and the sweet rhythm of "Your Body's Callin", followed by yet another classic, and probably his biggest song ever "Bump N Grind", or the strange lyrics yet smooth sound of yet another classic "It Seems Like You're Ready". Everything about this album just seems to flow perfectly, and when we get to the 2 part epic that is "Sex Me", we've already experienced one of the best R&B albums of the 90's and possibly all time honestly. 6 million records later, award nominations, and a long lasting legacy, 12 Play is still the no. 1 R. Kelly album a full 23 years later.

Have an issue with the order of the albums? Or just a comment on the albums in general? Post your opinion or thoughts in the section below.



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