Alright, it’s time to turn the lights down and get out my famous cassette of slow jams. Hang on – lemme just – wait – it has to be around here somewhere….oh this ALWAYS happens. Check under the sofa…no luck? Maybe I left it in the tape player, or in the car…well…shit. Maybe it’s time for me to admit something pretty embarrassing…I don’t have a cassette tape of slow jams ready for this moment. I hope this isn’t a deal breaker. Maybe if I had been born a few years earlier and hit adolescence during the mid 90’s, I’d be more versed in slow jams, jams, jam music, traffic jams, The Jam, and of course, fruit preservatives, but, here we are.
As it turns out, not only do I know very little about slow jams, I know even less about a man behind a fair portion of popular ones during the nineties, R. Kelly. I know exactly three things about him from a musical perspective: first, he was the one who sang “I Believe I Can Fly” in Space Jam, he kept it “hot n’ fresh out the kitchen” in the “Ignition (Remix),” and third, and maybe most importantly, he created the “Trapped in the Closet” series, which by all accounts could only be the work of a true genius, and as such, was parodied by South Park in a classic episode. R. Kelly had a ridiculously successful career for over a decade, working with some of the visionaries of the hip hop and rap genres during that time, including Nas, Biggie, Sean Combs and Jay Z. But R (short for Robert, but I’m not calling him that) had the most success creating songs like this one, “Bump n’ Grind”; which saw R effortlessly combine R&B themes with pure slow jam sex appeal, creating a large (mostly female) fan base that kept him and his falsetto tendencies at or near the top of the charts all those years.
Without knowing anything at all about slow jams, I can tell you that “Bump n’ Grind” is almost insulting in how basic it really is, but is nothing short of being an absolute pleasure to listen to. From it’s intro where R screams “My mind’s telling me no/But my body, my body’s telling me yes!” to his vocalizations over the hypnotic chants of “I don’t see nothing wrong/with a little bump n’ grind,” the song actually holds up well, even more than 20 years after it hit #1 on April 9th, 1994 and stayed at the top of the chart for 4 weeks (interrupting the 6 week run that Ace of Base’s “The Sign” had during that same period).
Of course, it wouldn’t be appropriate to talk about R without talking about the numerous legal issues that have surrounded him throughout his career, including allegedly (but probably) marrying a then 15-year old Alliyah in 1994, being found guilty of battery in a brawl that required the victim to get over 100 stitches, and having at least two different sexual relationships with underage girls, the latter of which resulted in various child pornography/sexual assault charges, where he was found not guilty. The most recent piece of news from camp R. Kelly was when a woman aggressively grabbed his crotch during a concert in Detroit. So yeah, R. Kelly – makes good slow jams, made Space Jam even more memorable, would definitely be featured at least once on my non-existent slow jam cassette, but is probably a sleaze in real life.