R. Kelly autobiography vivid despite guarded tone
This image provided by SmileyBooks shows the cover of R. Kelly's "Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me." The book recounts the creative and family life of a once-in-a-generation performer and musician. (AP Photo/SmileyBooks)
Let's get this out of the way up front: R. Kelly's autobiography does not discuss what really happened with the sex tape that almost sent him to prison. It does not include a single word about Aaliyah, the late singer Kelly allegedly married when she was 15. Other tantalizing incidents and individuals are glossed over. A tell-all, this is not.
Instead, "Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me" recounts the creative and family life of a once-in-a-generation performer and musician. Despite its guarded tone, the book is a vivid and entertaining journey that reveals much about the musical engine of a true artist.
Kelly, whose ability to write and produce hits for himself and others is unparalleled in modern R&B, does confront the defining theme of his career: the juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane, the sexual and the spiritual.
In the first paragraph of his life story, Kelly's beloved mother promises that he "could achieve all things through Christ Jesus." Turn the page, and Mama Joann is sneaking 5-year-old Robert into a lounge where she is singing with her band. Next she's in church, speaking in tongues. A few pages later, 8-year-old Robert is inside his mother's house on the South Side of Chicago, taking pornographic pictures of adults and being molested by a teenage girl.
FILE - This June 13, 2008 file photo shows R&B singer R. Kelly arriving at 3the Cook County Criminal Court Building in Chicago. A spokesman for R. Kelly says the R&B singer is suffering complications from throat surgery and will miss promotional appearances for his new album and memoir. Kelly's publicist said in a statement that the singer was on his way to New York on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 when he became ill and returned to Chicago for medical treatment. Kelly had surgery last year to treat an abscess on his vocal cords. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, file)
And people question how "Sex Weed" and "U Saved Me" can come from the same man?
Music was a constant presence inside young Robert. He literally had sounds cascading through his mind, "like I had a radio playing nonstop in my head . I would hear melodies, although I never knew what they meant. In fact, I thought everybody heard the music."
Kelly also never knew his father and could not read due to an undiagnosed disability. (Kelly says he is still illiterate; his book was written with David Ritz, biographer of Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, and other giants.) The only reason Kelly graduated from elementary school was because he could play basketball. All this created a shy, shameful boy who often felt "like an alien," a phrase that reappears throughout the book.