The '90s was a magical time for R&B. The genre featured an array of A-List talent, including Boyz II Men, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and others. But with the influence of hip-hop, the sound, as well as the stylings, of the music would evolve due in large parts to acts like R. Kelly, who - along with Jodeci - became the face for hyper-sexual, bad boy R&B.

Beginning his career alongside Chicago quartet Public Announcement, the group released their group album together, Born Into the '90s, which struck platinum and positioned Kelly as a budding star.

After leaving Public Announcement to go solo, Kelly returned in 1993 with his debut album, 12 Play, on Jive Records. The album would go on to sell six million copies and crown him as a R&B's next superstar. After a two-years hiatus, the Chicago crooner would return with his sophomore self-titled effort.

Unleashed on Nov. 14, 1995, his self-titled album would become Kelly's first project to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart, as well as spawn multiple hit singles, making him the undisputed king of R&B. The collection wouldn't fare as well as 12 Play, but would sell over four million copies and help solidify him as a legend in the making.

On the 20th anniversary of this influential LP, we picked the five tracks that best represent R. Kelly's brilliance in songwriting and production.

  • 5

    "Hump Bounce"

    After a soul-stirring intro, R. Kelly delivers a sleek offering with the song, "Hump Bounce." Taking a drive in his stretch Land Cruiser, the crooner is looking to enjoy the summer breeze and hopefully pick up a few cuties in the process. Lyrics like "It's Saturday, I'm ready to get out and have some fun / In the club round 12-ish, me and my homies hoochie hunting," are sung with passion and fervor. From the silky female vocals on the hook to the sleek production, "Hump Bounce" serves as a solid mid-tempo jam that is one of the many highlights on the album.

  • 4

    "(You to Be) Happy"

    Featuring the Notorious B.I.G.

    Chicago and Brooklyn link up on the banger, "(You To Be) Happy," which sees him doing work alongside the late Notorious B.I.G. Opening the track, belting "Everyday and night I pray / Love will swing you back this way / Life without you here with me / Ain't the same without you, G," over the polished production, Kellz sets the romantic mood well. Coming in after the hook, the crooner sings, "Baby come and talk to me, let me know what's on your mind / Every time I see you, you're running from me all the time" in response to his prospective lover's cat and mouse game. Biggie comes through on the third verse spitting, "Sitting reminiscing on when ya' started dissing, spitting in faces of public places Rolex wit' faces, had you dripping for months / Made some dough, did some shows, now you starting to front." The great rapper gifted Kelly with one of the most quotable guest verses of his career. "(You to Be) Happy" is arguably on of the album's standout songs.

  • 3

    "I Can't Sleep Baby (If I)"

    R, Kelly gets repentant on the slow burner, "I Can't Sleep Baby (If I)" and pours his heart out over delicate drums and piano keys. The seasoned vocalist sees the error in his ways and conveys the sentiment with his apologetic lyrics. "Girl, I must've been crazy to say that it was over / I must've been a fool to yell we were through / And now I'm all lonely and down an out, baby / 'Cause I never meant for this to end / It was so so crazy of me," he sings. The hook, which features him detailing his misery, is delivered flawlessly and with unbridled emotion. The hit ballad would sell three million copies and score him another No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B Songs chart.

  • 2

    "Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)"

    Featuring the Isley Brothers

    R. Kelly's excellence was captured with the album's followup single, "Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)," which landed in 1996 and shook the R&B game up. Featuring Ronald Isley and the Isley Brothers, the track sees R. Kelly detailing the seductive ways of a philandering woman looking to put him under his spell. "You want me, but he needs you / Yet, you're telling me that everything is cool / Trying to convince me, baby, to do as you say / Just go along and see things your way," he sings. Although the song itself is a classic in its own right, the Hype Williams-directed video received more props and quickly became one of the most beloved clips of the '90s. The visual sparked a soap opera music serial that featured R. Kelly versus the smooth but evil Mr. Biggs (aka Ron Isley).

  • 1

    "You Remind Me of Something"

    R. Kelly made a big splash in 1995 with his classic cut, "You Remind Me of Something." The lead single, from his self-titled LP, revolves around the crooner appraising his woman and comparing her to his fleet of luxury vehicles. Singing "There's something about your love that's got me going crazy (baby you know I want you real bad) / And girl, I really like your freaky style (How can I get down with you) / So pull a little closer to my ride (I wanna get to know you, baby) / And hip me up on how to get inside you, listen, pretty baby," the singer cuts the small talk and gets straight to the point. The song became one of R. Kelly's most memorable and successful tunes in his expansive catalog.


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