(The Root) — R. Kelly’s past is hardly free of scandal. But if you’re looking for any juicy details about the singer-songwriter’s child-pornography trial (he was acquitted of all charges in 2008), his alleged marriage to singer Aaliyah when she was 15 or recent tax troubles in his new memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, you’ll be disappointed.
Instead, the singer muses about his relationship with his doting mother and shares surprising tidbits that might give some insight into the troubled singer’s life. Kelly, who is currently dealing with complications from a recent throat surgery, wrote openly about love, music and sex. We’ve pulled out a few of the most fascinating stories from his life. Our favorite is his McBeef with Jay-Z. Read on.
1. He has debilitating dyslexia.
It’s ironic that one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation — he’s written for Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Mary J. Blige, to name a few — suffers from a debilitating form of dyslexia that makes it difficult for him to read, write or spell. When he was growing up, his inability to learn made him fearful of school. “Every time my teacher called on me to read, my heart sank,” Kelly wrote. By the time he got to high school, he was skipping class regularly and hiding in an old music room with an abandoned piano, where he taught himself how to play.
2. He still carries around a bullet from a childhood gunshot wound.
The R&B thug might have unintentionally earned his street cred when he was shot in the shoulder by stray gunfire at age 11. Hearing gunshots as a child growing up in the South Side of Chicago, he wrote, was no rare occurrence. “But this gunshot was different. This POW! rang in my ear … It was like I was leaving my body.” The bullet is still lodged in his shoulder, but his only concern at the time was whether or not his injury would affect his jump shot and prevent him from playing basketball.
3. He’s a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
He grew up in a house full of women — cousins, aunts, friends of aunts — who he said would walk around half naked and act “differently” when his mother or grandparents weren’t home. He was only 8 when he got caught watching one of them, whom he does not name, have sex with a man. Eventually, he wrote, that woman would ask him to watch and take pictures of her and her partner in the act. On a separate occasion, another woman, who was at least 10 years older than Kelly, started sexually abusing him and continued to do so for years. “I was too afraid and too ashamed,” Kelly wrote about why he never told anyone.
4. He hears melodies in his head all day long.
In the book, Kelly is candid about his uncontrollable preoccupation with music. As a child, when he tried to read, the words would sometimes jump out of the page and turn into musical notes. He heard music in his head so much that he was nervous to tell anyone about it. “I couldn’t figure out if I was sick, retarded or dying, or if there was something just really messed up about me.” Eventually he embraced it, finding comfort in his mind’s radio. Songs have continued to play in his mind throughout his adult life, helping to produce his biggest hits, including “You Are Not Alone,” the first song he wrote for Michael Jackson.