He is known for a collection of major hit singles including "Bump N' Grind," "Your Body's Callin'," "I Believe I Can Fly," "Gotham City," "Ignition (Remix)," "If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time," "The World's Greatest," "I'm A Flirt," and the hip-hopera "Trapped in the Closet."
Kelly, who was born on the South Side of Chicago, has written, produced, and remixed songs for other artists such as Gladys Knight, Aaliyah, The Isley Brothers, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Janet Jackson, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Céline Dion, Vanessa L. Williams, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Lopez among others.
Kelly attended Kenwood Academy High School, where his music teacher-mentor Lena McLin inspired him to become a singer. Kelly's single mother, Joanne, was a singer. Kelly began singing in the church at the age of eight. As a teenager, he began street performing under the Chicago 'L' trains before he eventually formed a group with his friend Marc McWilliams.
In 1989, Kelly and Marc formed the group MGM (Musically Gifted Men). Along with Vincent Corey Walker and Shawnth Brooks, MGM performed on the TV talent show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole, and went on to win the $100,000 grand prize.
Soon after, R. Kelly and MGM released their first single, "Why You Wanna Play Me." Kelly signed with Jive Records in 1991, and Kelly formed another R&B group, called Public Announcement.
Kelly and Public Announcement released their debut album, Born into the 90's, in early 1992. Released during the new jack swing period of the early nineties, the album yielded the hits "She's Got That Vibe," "Honey Love," "Dedicated," and "Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ)," all of which were led by Kelly. Kelly left Public Announcement in January 1993.
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Kelly's debut solo album, 12 Play, was released in the fall of 1993 and yielded the singer's first number-one hit, "Bump n' Grind," which spent a record-breaking 12 weeks at number one on the Hot R&B Singles chart. 12 Play was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1994, and went platinum sic times. Kelly also wrote "You Are Not Alone" for Michael Jackson for Jackson's 1995 album, HIStory.
In 1996, Kelly released one of his most successful singles with "I Believe I Can Fly," an inspirational song originally released on the soundtrack for the film Space Jam.
"I Believe I Can Fly" reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on the UK Charts for three weeks and won three Grammy Awards in 1997. Rolling Stone magazine named it as the 406th of its top 500 songs of all time.
In early 2003, Chocolate Factory became a runaway success for Kelly, selling over three million copies due to the success of singles such as "Ignition," "Snake" and "Step in the Name of Love."
On September 13, 2010, Kelly released one of his three new albums, Epic; a collection of Kelly's most "epic" ballads, including five new songs. The compilation was only released in Europe.
Kelly's next album Love Letter was released on Dec 14, 2010 worldwide. The album includes 15 songs, the latter being a bonus track which is a cover of Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone," which was written and produced by Kelly as well.
Kelly was recently named the # 1 Hip-Hop/R&B artist of the last 25 years by Billboard.
On January 31, 2012, Kelly said during a radio interview that he's releasing a follow-up to the Love Letter album titled Write Me Back. The album is a mix of Kelly's previous albums; Love Letter, Happy People and a little bit of TP-2.Com.
On February 1, 2012, Kelly released the first single, "Share My Love," off his twelfth studio album, Write Me Back.
On February 18, 2012, R. Kelly performed at Whitney Houston's memorial.
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