Whether you believe he's the world's greatest living music artist or a twisted sexual deviant who eluded justice, there's much to be gleaned about R. Kelly in his new autobiography Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me. In the thick (377 pages!) tome, Kelly is incredibly candid about his tumultuous childhood, as well as the various titillating highs and depressing lows of his career.
But you're probably wondering: Does he shed any light on how he thought to compare a woman to a jeep, or his dick to a remote control? We pored over Soulacoaster to examine the key moments in Kelly's life, and mined the most interesting nuggets. We've also provided some of his videos as a soundtrack to your reading.
“I Believe I Can Fly”
As a youngster R. Kelly felt paralyzed with fear when around skyscrapers. He felt they were going to fall on him. One day he decided he'd had enough, and confronted his fear head on. He challenged the Sears Tower to a fight.
“Sears Tower, I dare you to fall on me. I dare you to scare me anymore. You ain't nothing but steel and concrete. You might be a symbol of this city, but one day I'm gonna be a symbol. I'm gonna stand for Chicago; one day I'm gonna stand as tall as you.”
R. Kelly is a self-proclaimed, unashamed, unabashed mama's boy. The man in his mother Joann's life — and the closest thing Kelly had to a father figure — was named Lucious. Joann and Lucious loved one another deeply, but when they drank, things could go from good to terrible in an instant. They fought often. And sometimes the fights became physical.
She ran back into the house. When she came out again, she was holding a heavy glass mug.
“Put a hand on me and I'll fuck you up,” she threatened.
“Who you gonna fuck up, bitch?” Lucious taunted before grabbing and twisting her arm.
With her free arm, Joann Kelly whacked Lucious across the head. The mug split open and cut his forehead, blood gushing out everywhere. Lucious staggered, fell, passed out unconscious. My mother ran to him, screaming for me to call 911. A neighbor called the police.
By the time the cops arrived, Lucious had come to.
“What happened?” they asked.
Lucious hesitated. I was shaking 'cause I thought they'd take my mother to jail. Lucious looked at the cops and said, “I drank a few too many and fell down the stairs.”
R. Kelly takes his coffee with three creams and six sugars, just like his mother used to.
She fixed her coffee with three creams and six sugars and tasted it to see if it was sweet enough. She wore cheap red lipstick, and when she tasted her coffee, she left a red mark on the cup. She always asked me if I wanted a sip and I always did. And because I loved my mother so much, I always turned the cup to where she had left that red mark. I liked to drink from the same spot where she drank.
“There were times when I had to get out of my house,” Kelly writes of his youth. “There was too much noise, screaming, arguing. There were too many people having sex.” Once, at age 8, Kelly went to explore the yelps, squeals and hollers coming from inside the house. He peeked in a door and saw…
A man's backside was high in the air, coming down on the lady with her legs spread wide, her big booty propped up on a pillow. I didn't understand how it was working, but he was moving down on her and she was coming up on him. First the rhythm was slow, then faster, then crazy fast. They were screaming, moaning, going wild. I couldn't stop looking. I'd never seen nothing like this before. Screaming, cursing, bed sagging, bodies humping.
Young Kelly was spotted by the couple, and ran away. They called him back to the room and encouraged him to watch them finish. Later, they invite him to take photos of their lovemaking.
She gave me a Polaroid camera. The guy liked the idea as much as she did. They got into positions where I could see their private parts. I snapped the picture. When she showed me how it took only a minute to develop, I was amazed. The photographic technology impressed me more than the sex.
R. Kelly loves animals, and vividly remembers when his stuttering uncle Doug accidentally killed the family dog, Tempskins.
When he moved the crates, I saw Tempskins, our German Shepard, lying there.
“Tempskins asleep?” I asked.
“No, T-T-Tempskins d-d-dead.”
“D-d-dead, as in b-b-bitch ain't b-b-breathing.”
“How'd he die?”
“What kind of accident?”
“I set some p-p-poison in the p-p-peanut b-b-butter to k-k-kill the rats. K-k-killed T-T-Tempskins instead.
See also this A Capella performance of “The Zoo” wherein Kelly wears an alligator skin jacket with matching alligator skin gloves.
R. Kelly was a fan of Three's Company, and always wondered what it would be like to live Jack Tripper's baller life.
Uncle Doug turned to me and asked, “N-n-now this h-h-here is every m-m-man's d-d-dream. Every m-m-man d-d-dreams of living with t-t-two women. Which one d-d-do you l-l-like?” “The blonde,” I said. “Chrissy.” “I l-like b-b-both them b-b-bitches,” Uncle Doug said. “Ain't 'b-b-bout to k-k-kick either one outta m-m-my b-b-bed.”
“Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)”
There's a chapter in Soulacoaster devoted to the many secrets Kelly has kept over his life. He kept them hidden in what he calls an “imaginary brick box.” One of the secrets was that he couldn't read. Another was that he was molested continuously, from age 8 on, by a woman he doesn't name. She told him she'd whip him good if he ever told anyone. He never did.
I drifted off to sleep and fell into a crazy dream about Three's Company when a strange feeling in my body woke me up. The “feeling” was down below my belt. I opened my eyes and saw a female playing with me. She was at least ten years older than me. I was eight. “What are you doing?” I asked. “You'll like it,” she said. “It'll feel good. Look what happens when I rub it.” She kept rubbing until I got hard. I didn't say anything. Then she put it in her mouth and started sucking.
Elsewhere, Kelly speaks of Mr. Blue, a cool old neighbor who bought some of the children in the neighborhood bikes and skateboards. One hot day, Mr. Blue invited Kelly to his house for some watermelon.
As I finished my melon, he told me to come into his room. “When I was a little boy 'bout your age,” Mr. Blue recalled. “I had an uncle who paid me a dollar to rub on his dick. Shit, I'd take that money and buy me all kinds of candy.” At this point Mr. Blue pulled out his penis and started rubbing it with grease. It looked like a monster. The last thing I wanted to do was rub it.
Kelly ran out of Mr. Blue's house, but could hear the old man shouting, “If you know what's good for you, boy, you won't say nothing to no one. Say a word and I'll cook your goddamn goose!”
“I Look To You”
All throughout Soulacoaster R. Kelly makes clear that his biggest influence and greatest source of strength was his mother, Joann. He spent every day of his youth with her. When he began to tour, she came with him. And when she became too sick to travel, he spoke to her every night on the phone. He talks to her now, even though she's gone. The scene in the book where he says his final words to his mother as she lies in a hospital bed, body riddled with advanced cancer, is a real tearjerker. Kelly says he still thinks about and talks to his departed mother every day, and that music is what kept him sane after she passed. But sometimes, you can still hear the hurt in his voice.