Ranking the best R. Kelly Solo Albums

Musical genius.

No matter what you think of the man personally — and lord knows I’ve made my thoughts clear in the past — there is no denying that Robert Kelly has reigned as R&B’s preeminent mastermind for more than two decades.

Musical genius isn’t hyperbole. In this case, it’s a proven fact.

Before Kellz releases his latest effort, The Buffet, take a look back at his game-changing discography, from worst to best. This list highlights his 12 solo albums, excluding his work with Public Announcement and those disastrous Jay Z collabos.

Arruh Kelly has had his ups and downs. But when he’s at his best, he’s worthy of the title of King of R&B. Here’s proof.

black-panties1

12. Black Panties (2013)

Soul In Stereo rating: 1.5 stars out of 5 (read our review here)

Edd said: Yeah, THIS album. My hatred of this album has become legendary around these parts but it’s justified. Check out the review above to get the full story. Black Panties is all of Kelly’s worst attributes in one shoddy package — juvenile, oversexed lyrics delivered without a hint of passion.

Forgotten favorites: ummm, let me get back to you…

untitled

11. Untitled (2009)

Soul In Stereo rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: This album’s greatest sin isn’t that it’s bad (although it’s certainly not very good), it’s just downright forgettable. Besides the “Number One” duet with Keri Hilson, all the tracks feel like the Walmart Great Value version of Kelly’s earlier hits. Kellz really sleepwalked through this one.

Forgotten favorites: “Number One,” “Pregnant”

double up

10. Double Up (2007)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: While this album was filled with cringeworthy moments (“Sex Planet,” “The Zoo”), there were a fair share of standouts as well. Kelly’s greatest strength has been his ability to adapt, and here he seamlessly blends his music into the current hip-hop climate. In many ways it feels more like a rap album than an R&B one. It’s far from his best work but it’s still a fun ride. “Real Talk” still cracks me up with every single listen.

Forgotten favorites: “Hook It Up,” “Real Talk,” “Rock Star”

tp3

9. TP.3 Reloaded (2005)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: Ah yes, the “Trapped In The Closet” album. Before the concept went completely off the rails, this audio version of a Tyler Perry play was pretty clever, taking musical storytelling to an entirely new level. The album didn’t offer very much outside of the soap-opera shenanigans, but it gave us another layer of Kelly’s musical genius.

Forgotten favorites: “In The Kitchen,” “Hit It Till The Mornin,” “Slow Wind”

write me back

8. Write Me Back (2012)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (read our review here)

Edd said: The spiritual successor to the Love Letter album, Kelly stepped away from the strippers and rappers to deliver a back-to-basics album that maturely explored love and relationships. The mood is a bit tepid and preachy at times but it’s a welcome change from the usual Kellz debauchery.

Forgotten favorites: “Feelin Single,” “Green Light,” “Lady Sunday”

happy people saved me

7. Happy People/U Saved Me (2004)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Mere months after Kelly beat child porn allegations, there was NO WAY we’d get another braggadocios sex album. Instead, he delivers an upbeat double album that balances faith with family-friendly dance music. Patronizing? You bet. But the album is still a fun, breezy listen.

Forgotten favorites: “The Greatest Show on Earth,” “Prayer Changes,” “If I Could Make the World Dance”

r

6. R. (1998)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Kelly’s biggest-selling album to date is also literally his BIGGEST album to date. This double disc album boast THIRTY tracks, encompassing the genres of R&B, hip-hop, pop, gospel and country. This album proved that Kelly was not just an R&B balladeer, but one of the most influential voices in modern music. The only thing that holds it back is its girth.

Forgotten favorites: “Did You Ever Think,” “Money Makes the World Go Round,” “Dollar Bill”

love letter

5. Love Letter (2010)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: The album that made R&B fans fall in love with Kelly all over again. Following the blueprint of soul pioneers, Love Letter is a callback to the genre’s Motown heyday, delivering lush, elegant R&B during an era of canned, commercialized music. It’s arguably the greatest vocal performance of his career.

Forgotten favorites: “Love Letter,” “Number One Hit,” “When A Woman Loves”

r kelly

4. R. Kelly (1995)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Sophomore albums often make or break and artist, and after R. Kelly, Kellz became a made man. Building off the scope of his debut, Kelly upped the ante with more bedroom burners, higher-profile collaborations and tracks that would become signature songs. This might be the most underrated album in his catalog.

Forgotten favorites: “Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby,” “(You to Be) Be Happy,” “Religious Love”

12 play

3. 12 Play (1993)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Unquestionably, this is one of the most influential R&B albums of all time. 12 Play is more than just R&B’s favorite sex manual, it figuratively wrote the book on R&B’s sexual explosion in the early 90s. Lyrically and sonically, it set the genre on a new course, one that was both creatively and financially lucrative. And it birthed a lot of babies too.

Forgotten favorites: “Summer Bunnies,” “For You,” “It Seems Like You’re Ready”

tp2

2. TP-2.com (2000)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: TP-2.com did for the 2000s what its predecessor did in the early 90s — it reinvented R&B. From over-the-top sexual anthems and party starters to explorations of faith, family and womanhood, Kelly AGAIN rewrites the template for modern R&B. It’s my personal favorite Kelly album, but there’s still one better.

Forgotten favorites: “Strip for You,” “Don’t You Say No,” “One Me”

chocolate factory

1. Chocolate Factory (2003)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Throughout this list, we’ve seen Kelly’s ability to evolve with each release. That sonic diversity is what drives Arruh’s best work, Chocolate Factory. It’s more than just a blend of music genres, it’s an amalgamation of decades of music history, packaged in one near-perfect album. It’s the quintessential R. Kelly album — unquestionably his most complete and dynamic work.

Forgotten favorites: “I’ll Never Leave,” “Showdown,” “Imagine That”

What are you favorite Kelly albums? Let us know below.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

4 Comments

  1. Sir, the double CD is the best! Then 12 Play, and everything comes after that! But how can you rank R.Kelly? That’s like trying to come up with an Isley Brothers top 3 🙂

  2. TP-2
    Chocolate Factory/Loveland
    R.
    R. Kelly
    12 Play
    I based my list off of quality(production), longevity, number of times I had to switch tracks. TP-2 was great from top to bottom
    Love Letter

  3. Born into the 90s

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*