R. Kelly’s mind-boggling “Trapped in the Closet” saga conquered yet another medium last night, when downtown New York City’s IFC Center theater hosted a premiere for Chapters 13-22. Such a formal celebration—complete with a flood-lit red carpet, though I didn’t spot a single celeb walking said carpet—was precisely what a monumental pop-culture achievement like “Trapped” deserves. And taking in all the shocking twists and turns of these latest chapters all at once, in a darkened room full of other devotees, was an experience I’ll not soon forget. (I won’t spoil anything—you can see the new chapters yourself at IFC.com, where they’re being rolled out daily—but suffice it to say that Sylvester, Twan, nosy neighbor Rosie, and the rest of the cast travel to some strange, fantastic, borderline-offensive new places.)
But the real highlight was the brief yet spellbinding speech that Kells himself (pictured) delivered in person before the theater’s lights went down. “Hello, New York,” he opened, to rapturous applause. “I’d like to welcome me here.” Finally, a chance to glimpse inside his one-of-a-kind mind! All our lingering questions, answered at last!
… Or not. “I have no idea of how to explain ‘Trapped in the Closet,'” the R. continued. “I can explain all my other songs, but this is an alien to me. The reason I say that is that it’s something that has never happened — can’t nobody explain it, including me.”
Still, he did offer some tantalizing hints as to the hidden workings of his creative process. “If I don’t rhyme, I can’t tell the story. So it’s crazy, if you understand what I’m saying. Like ‘Bridget’ and ‘midget’? I came up with that at Panera Bread — real talk. And I had spent a whole week on trying to figure out how the hell — I mean, I got ‘midget,’ but how can I continue telling the story? But once I came up with, he had a girl named Bridget, I was able to continue on with my story. And that’s how ‘Trapped in the Closet’ goes.”
Indeed. Before letting us feast on his latest sumptuous offering, the “Sex in the Kitchen” chef turned reflective. “I’d like to thank… everybody for supporting me. ‘Cause when I first did the first chapter, people was looking at me like I was crazy. You know, like the man that came up with the airplane. They was looking like, ‘What? It got wings? What?!'” And there you have it: R. Kelly, 21st-century Wright Brother. I can’t imagine a more fitting summation of the man’s talent.