Summary

After Love Letter and Write Me Back, classy and relatively polite throwback albums, R. Kelly reverts to sexually exaggerated and wholly contemporary content for Black Panties. Kelly, joined by a deep roster of fellow songwriters and producers, dispenses with the strings, horns, and dashing charm, and dishes out sleaze by the bucket over modern backdrops that slink and whir. All the material is slow and mostly pared down, made to maximize space for his still generous supply of hooks and outlandish rhymes. Awestruck lines like "And if I'm ever in the mood for two pussies, then a pussy will bring another pussy to me" allow "Marry the Pu**y" to eclipse Jaheim's "P**** Appreciation Day" and the-Dream's "P*ssy" as 2013's most extreme ode to tubular tracts. The sinister boom-and-twinkle of "Cookie," mostly about servicing, would probably place fourth. The album isn't all filth. "You Deserve Better," a winding and atmospheric ballad, is typically materialistic but sweet; this time, when he sings about cracking lobster, it's in reference to dining, not his woman's back. The low-slung "My Story" is a bit debauched but details his rise to fame. "Right Back," among the deepest and most bittersweet songs in the man's catalog, expresses gratitude to close friends. At one point in the album, Kelly even proclaims "We ain't even gotta touch," though that leads to "All I wanna do is throw this money on you," which leads to "We gon' fuck around and make a baby in this room." Occasional resemblances to Drake and the-Dream are as blatant as the Isley Brothers and Michael Jackson exercises of Write Me Back. The similarities are so obvious that it's tough to discern if Kelly is acknowledging his younger followers, aiming to beat them at their game, or both. ~ Andy Kellman