R. Kelly's Sexy But Troubling 'Black Panties' Is a Throwback for Both Good and Ill

December 9, 2013 2:01 PM

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One secret to R. Kelly’s confounding stardom: his sunglasses. He wears them more often than not, sporting them on nearly each of his 12 solo-album covers, including Black Panties’ superstud-swimming-in-a-pool-of-naked-ladies tableau. Dark shades are the Chicago native's hip veil; he generally doesn’t want you staring directly into his eyes and peering into his soul. Because you might not want to find out that a peerless soul man might not actually have one.

On one hand, you can’t fuck with R. Kelly’s creative output. He’s a 44-year-old, one-man, self-contained hit machine, a prolific mastermind with an otherworldly work ethic — easily the most influential male R&B performer/producer of the past 20 years next to unprolific genius D’Angelo. Kelly’s diver...

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