10 Things Revealed in R. Kelly’s Memoir

From abuse to a McBeef with Jay-Z and, yes, even celibacy, the singer opens up in Soulacoaster.


The rapper and the singer became embroiled in a strange, memorable beef in 2002 while they were on tour for their collaborative album, Best of Both Worlds. What people might not know is how Kelly chose to handle it. Accounts about who started the disagreement differ. Jay-Z said Kelly was jealous of him; Kelly implies in his book that Jay-Z was selfish. No matter. According to Kelly, he had become so frustrated while on tour that he walked offstage and went to the place that brings him solace — McDonald’s. “But this time, I didn’t go eat. I asked the guy working the drive-through window for a uniform, and for the next three hours, I served Big Macs, fries and Cokes to customers.” We’re loving it.

6. His first girlfriend drowned while they were playing near a creek.

In one of the sadder moments of his memoir, Kelly recalls the story of his first girlfriend, Lulu. He was only 8, but they would hold hands and eat make-believe meals inside their playhouse built from cardboard, where they “vowed to be boyfriend and girlfriend forever.” Their last playdate turned tragic when, after fighting with some older kids over a play area by a creek, Lulu was pushed into the water. A fast-moving current swept her away while she screamed Kelly’s name. Shortly after, she was found dead downstream. Kelly calls Lulu his very first musical inspiration.

7. “I Believe I Can Fly” came to him in a dream when he was 9.

In an early chapter of the book, Kelly describes a dream he had when he was 9 years old. He found himself in an all-white room with a white piano in its center. He was playing a beautiful melody but was interrupted by the doorbell. He ran to the door, only to find no one standing there, so he continued on with his song. This cycle repeated itself a few times before he finally opened the door to find cartoon characters standing there, giggling. When he woke up, he couldn’t remember the song at all.

“It would take 20 years, but the words came back and made complete sense,” he wrote. The song? “I Believe I Can Fly.” The cartoon characters? The stars of Space Jam, the 1996 animated film for which the song was written.

8. He made Notorious B.I.G. cry.

As it turns out, Biggie plays an intergral role in the moment the words and melody from Kelly’s childhood dream came back to him. He and the Notorious B.I.G., who featured Kelly on his sophomore album, toured together and stayed at the same hotel in Detroit in 1996. Kelly found a piano in the lobby and he wrote that suddenly he remembered the melody from “I Believe I Can Fly.” According to Kelly, Biggie met him in the lobby, and when he sang him the song, the rapper said, with tears in his eyes, “They gonna be playing that when you and I move to the other side of time.”  

9. He does see somethin’ wrong with a little bump and grind.

Believe it or not, Mr. Feelin’ on Your Booty practiced celibacy right after he proposed to his then-fiancee and now ex-wife, Andrea Kelly. It was a romantic proposal, complete with a $50,000 engagement ring, a helicopter and a dramatic walk onto the tarmac — his “dream come true.” As soon as she said yes, he decided that they shouldn’t have sex until their wedding night, and she agreed. “It would mean that for eight months between our proposal and our marriage, that love, not lust, would grow between us,” Kelly wrote.

10. He had hoop dreams.

As a young boy, Kelly took seriously his dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. He was a promising player in middle school, and because his learning disability was so severe, he suspected that the only reason he was allowed to graduate was so that he could play ball for his high school, Kenwood Academy. He did just that, but soon after his high school music teacher noticed his musical gift, she made him quit the team to focus on singing. But he still calls basketball his release. “Hooping is not just a hobby or sport. It’s a way of life.”

Akoto Ofori-Atta is The Root‘s assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter. 

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