By Nick Catucci
December 11, 2013 at 08:59 PM EST
Jason Shaltz

What’s R. Kelly really like? Or at least, what’s he like when he’s enclosed in a glass booth with a handful of fans, a small entourage, and a SiriusXM host lobbing softball questions and gently ribbing him?

He’s deceptively normal. Normal because he’s very present without seeming too “on.” Which is deceptive because he’s still R. Kelly: As liable to recite an original poem so sexually explicit you can’t make eye contact with anyone else in the room while he’s speaking as he is to giving you goose pimples with a few a cappella bars of “Bump N’ Grind.”

All this happened yesterday evening at the Manhattan studios for SiriusXM, which broadcast the hour-long mix of interview and performance on the Heat and Heart & Soul channels, as part of their “Artist Confidential” series. (It airs again Thursday at 6pm ET, Saturday at 12pm, and Sunday at 6pm.)

Kells wore a red cap emblazoned with “CHICAGO,” black sunglasses, gold chains, and a stretchy black outfit with leather accents and a fashionably droopy crotch. (R. Kelly, we did not like the crotch on you.) More significantly, he wore a smile. He was cheerful and funny, not merely smooth and confident—although he was plenty smooth and confident, particularly when he slid into “I’m a Flirt” or “When a Woman’s Fed Up.”

The clip, though, that you should hear is of Kells telling the story of meeting and working with Michael Jackson. When he first imitates “Mike,” picture him pulling up his turtleneck collar to suggest Jackson’s face mask. (That gloriously gravelly voice you hear asking the questions belongs to host Cayman Kelly—and no, ladies, I don’t know if he’s available.)

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It looked so cold, though!” LOL.

R. Kelly’s new album may not be as convivial as I would have liked. But in the flesh, the man himself proves he’s in control of the punch lines.