By Chris Schonberger
July 27, 2007 at 08:44 PM EDT

Few products of popular culture have sparked as much fascination,confusion, and uproarious laughter as R. Kelly’s Trapped In the Closet series. Since the 12-chapter DVD’s 2005 release, there’ve been alot of rumors and speculation about Kelly’s plans to release more chapters,mostly due to the cliffhanger ending (“I’msorry, girl, but that [Don Imus’ favorite word] was me…”) and to the R’s general reputation for pushing the envelope.

But the real question was not really if he would make more chapters, but rather how many. 10? 20? 100? There was really no telling what the man wascapable of. In a recent BBC interview with Ronnie Herel, Kelz revealed that hehas about 38 chapters in the bag, but he suggested that he often works “throughthe night” writing more and more. He also explained how he has to use chartsto keep track of the crazy characters and whirlwind plot — “There’s a whole Trapped In the Closet small corporationgoing on!” Does the SEC know about this?

Now, Billboard hasconfirmed that Jive will release ten new installments of the saga on August 21. Cable’s Independent Film Channel will also broadcast the first 12 chapters beforethe release and stream all 22 installments on its website. According to thereport, we can expect some bizarre characters and plot twists:

The new round of “Trapped”videos finds Kelly portraying an old man named Randolph, complete with a potbelly and a fake white beard that nearly falls off mid-scene, as well as apreacher in a gray Jheri-curl wig and garish orange suit. In one of the finalchapters, Kelly’s Sylvester character talks business with a Sopranos-esquemobster who is eating a giant plate of spaghetti.

addCredit(“R. Kelly: John Sciulli/”)

Will the old man have a heart attack when he sees themidget? Will Rufus snag a string of spaghetti and find himself in a liplock a la Lady and the Tramp? I’ll be honest, PopWatchers: I’ve been feelingsort of left out of all of the Pottermania that’s dominated the past few weeks,but now I have something to get excitedabout — Trapped In the Closet is my Deathly Hallows. All the wizardry ofRowling, but with less predictable endings. (What can I say? “Real Talk,”just like Kelz taught me…) I’ve always been impressed by Kelly’s musical rangeand ability to shape-shift from Bacchanalian sex god to repentant prophet overthe course of a few songs, but its his ability to weave the plight of modernman into larger-than-life characters and absurdist plots that points to adeeper, more literary genius. As Monteverdi is to opera, R. Kelly is tohip-hopera. I don’t think anyone would deny that.

Bonus Material Ifyou can’t wait to see Chapters 13-22, you can bide your time by checking out”Same Girl,” another evolving R. Kelly production that has been turning intoa saga of its own. On the original track, Kelz and Usher find out that they’veboth been seeing the same girl. Good concept, but pretty pedestrian by both oftheir standards. In the subsequent music video (below), we discover a shocking twist:the “girl” is really girls — twins!(Following the lyrics logically, this means that the girls not only look alikebut also have the same house, job, and underwear, which is both unlikely andunhygienic. But the R never let logic get in the way of a good yarn.) Mostrecently, T-Pain has entered the fray on the “Same Girl (Remix)” with anothermind-boggling revelation — the girl is his wife! (Apparently the twins idea wasscrapped.) I have a feeling this one is not over. In fact, my cubicle-mateBethonie Butler just revealed to me that she isthe girl!? Like the R has said, no one’s closet is safe…

In closing, I leave you with one question, PopWatchers: IsR. Kelly the modern-day Homer, or is he the modern-day Shakespeare? Let thedebate begin.