R. Kelly as a music artist is one of the most successful singers of all time with over 75 million worldwide record sales and a slew of number-one hits to his name. His sexually charged and smooth R&B singles quickly helped him rise to fame during the 1990s, and his popularity would endure until his music disappeared from radio, leading to indictments for hefty and disgusting sexual crimes. He would eventually be found guilty of all charges, planting the final stake in the heart of what might have been one of the best R&B careers of all time and complicating the legacy of an artist who spoke to so many people on a grand level.
1. Ignition (Remix)
Ignition was originally slated for R. Kelly’s Loveland album but was remixed after the album was leaked and was subsequently changed to Chocolate Factory. Recorded shortly after his alleged statutory rape tape was a hit topic in the media, the remix of the song turned out to be his most famous track and was a huge hit. It spent five weeks at number two on the Hot 100 and was even included on Rolling Stone’s 2010 list of the Greatest Songs of All Time.
Mixed critical reviews did nothing to stop the song from turning into a major hit among fans. In the years since, there’s been an insane number of cover versions released for the track, ranging from Miley Cyrus performing a bluegrass version of the song to Robbie Williams comical a cappella style.
2. I Believe I Can Fly
This is one song that a lot of people my age grew up singing without ever knowing who actually sang it. It’s also one of the tracks from that era to get plenty of new lyrics from kids and online creators alike. I Believe I Can Fly was released on the soundtrack of Space Jam in 1996 and was also included on R. Kelly’s 1998 album R.
Riding the catchiness of the song and the fame that came along with the film, the track rose to number two on the Hot 100 and number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, spending six weeks in that slow. It earned five Grammy nominations and won Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best Song Written for Visual Media. It was a majestic and gospel-inspired hit single that inspired and shaped the childhood of millions in the 1990s, making it easily one of the best songs R. Kelly ever produced.
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3. You Remind Me Of Something
R. Kelly’s second studio album was a self-titled entry in 1995 that relied on the catchy hooks that made music in the 1990s so great. Many critics called You Remind Me Of Something one of the standout tracks on the album, though it was still a typical R. Kelly swing beat song.
The lyrics mostly focus on sexual innuendos, detailing the singer trying to seduce a woman who he says reminds him of something that he can’t quite put his finger on. It was a big hit single for him, rising to the top of the Hot R&B Singles chart and marking the fourth time he achieved that position so far in his career. It also peaked at number four on the US Hot 100 and achieved moderate success in international markets.
4. Bump N’ Grind
Bump N’ Grind is one of R. Kelly’s most famous tracks, and it’s one of his early releases that put his name on the map. It was released as the second single from his debut album 12 Play in 1994 and instantly gained traction on the charts. It spent 12 weeks on top of the Hot R&B Songs chart and also claimed the top of the Hot 100 for a week, eventually becoming the longest-running number-one single on the R&B chart of the year.
Three official versions of the track were released, including the album version and two remixes. The “Old School” remix was the one that got massive radio airplay and remained a relevant part of many station rotations up until his conviction.
5. Step In The Name of Love (Remix)
Step In The Name Of Love is another track from Loveland that was remixed for inclusion on R. Kelly’s Chocolate Factory album. It was eventually released in 2003 and revolved around the Chicago dance trend of stepping, turning it into an anthem of the people who loved the dance.
It took the top spot of the Hot R&B Songs chart but took 43 weeks to do so, marking one of the longest trips to number one in the chart’s history. In the end, this one is remembered for both him calling himself the pied piper of love and as a celebration of everything great about R&B music.
6. 12 Play
The song 12 Play was the title track and final song on R. Kelly’s debut studio album in 1993. It was the perfect entry point to the man’s music, as it features all of the provocative and romantic elements that made him a sex icon—for a while at least. The song itself focuses on the joys and pleasure that come with physical intimacy, but it doesn’t forget to talk about the emotional bonds that can be built up through those acts either.
It was a bit of an outlier on the album, as the production behind the track was minimalist, placing the focus solely on his vocals and the hypnotizing rhythm of the song. It remains a classic slow jam and a historic track for the R&B genre.
7. Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)
Down Low (Nobody Has To Know) was another one of the most successful singles to come from R. Kelly’s 1995 eponymous album. All about infidelity, the lyrics come from the perspective of a man having an affair with another man’s wife, telling her to keep the relationship a closely guarded secret.
It quickly gained steam in commercial markets, peaking at number four on the Hot 100 and reaching the top of the R&B charts. There, it spent seven weeks at number one and marked the fifth number-one single on the chart for him. Interestingly, the inclusion of the Isley Brothers on the song gave them their first top-40 hit since Don’t Say Goodnight was released in the 1980s.
8. Sex Me
Sex Me was the song that started R. Kelly’s mainstream music career and the track that summed up what he was all about in his music. It was the first solo single released by him, serving as the lead single of his debut album 12 Play in 1993.
It also marked his first success in the industry as a solo artist, with it peaking at number two on the US Hot R&B Songs chart and number 20 on the US Billboard Hot 100. That success was a bit of a surprise, as the track’s album version was one of the most explicit singles of the decade, though even today it remains a fan favorite and a staple of R&B playlists.
9. When A Woman’s Fed Up
Despite a lot of R. Kelly’s music being tagged as overly sexual, it didn’t come with a lack of respect—at least in the music. When A Woman’s Fed Up is a soulful ballad from his 1998 album R. that focuses on the importance of treating your partners with love and respect.
It’s the perfect example of the way he could convey complex emotions through his songs, rather than just lust and shallow ideas. The track ended up peaking on the Hot 100 at number 22 and on the Hot R&B Songs chart at number five. Since its release, it’s gone down as a classic of the R&B genre and remains a staple of R&B playlists.
10. It Seems Like You’re Ready
R. Kelly’s 12 Play album remains one of the best R&B albums of all time and a classic that is still interpolated and sampled today. It Seems Like You’re Ready is another amazing example from the album of his understanding and mastery of the genre. Serving as the fourth track on 12 Play, it peaked at number 29 on both the Rhythmic and Hot R&B Songs charts in 1994. Most of the lyrics focus on seducing a woman into letting go of her inhibitions and giving in to her desires.
11. Same Girl
Same Girl was released on R. Kelly’s 2007 album Double Up and was a collaboration between him and Usher. While meant for a later release, the song was ultimately leaked online in May 2007 and then subsequently leaked to radio stations shortly afterward.
The R&B track focuses on the duo both talking about a girl they’ve fallen in love with, eventually realizing that they’re both talking about the same girl. They attempt to call her out on her lies, but it is revealed in the music video that they are dating identical twins. It peaked at number four on the Hot R&B Songs chart and number 20 on the Hot 100.
12. I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I)
I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I) was one of the singles released from R. Kelly’s eponymous 1995 album and the sixth song of his to top the Hot R&B Songs chart. It was written shortly after he and his longtime girlfriend split up, and he never got over her or made her identity publicly available. It eventually rose to number one on the R&B Songs chart and number five on the US Hot 100.
13. I’m A Flirt Remix
I’m A Flirt Remix was a song that R. Kelly was a featured artist on. It was scheduled for release as the second single from Bow Wow’s album The Price Of Fame but eventually was only used as a bonus track on the album. The remix of I’m A Flirt was the first single released from R. Kelly’s album Double Up in 2007 and reached number 12 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was the subject of a unique chart run, as both versions were listed as a single song, despite R. Kelly’s version receiving far more radio play and downloads.
14. Your Body’s Callin’
Your Body’s Callin’ was the third official single released from 12 Play in 1994, and it was a slightly bigger success than the previous single Bump N’ Grind. A remix of the track was also released that served as the B-side of the single that featured the illustrious Aaliyah. It peaked at number 13 on the Hot 100 and made it to number two on the Hot R&B Songs chart. Interestingly, it also rose to number four on the Dance Singles Sales chart and number three on Rhythmic Radio.
15. Honey Love
Honey Love is a throwback song for R&B lovers and R. Kelly fans alike. It was released by him and his group Public Announcement in 1992 on their debut album Born In The 90’s and served as the second single from the album. It became his first number-one single on the R&B chart and spent two weeks in that position, but it also broke into the pop top 40 in the US. Many fans probably heard the song in the 1993 film Menace II Society.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.