Dispatches

The R. Kelly Playbook

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The R Kelly Playbook

Romancing my girlfriend with help from R&B's master of seduction.

I've long been convinced that R&B superstar R. Kelly is the ultimate master of seduction. His catalog oozes sex — even sappy ballads like "I Believe I Can Fly" have an erotic pull. And he really seems to believe in what he's selling. When he sings, "Girl, you make me wanna get you pregnant," it's like he's announcing part of a plan that can't possibly fail. I was totally won over in the spring of 2000, when the man himself stopped by my college to play some basketball, and was able to do in five minutes what I couldn't manage in three years.

Back on my first day of college, a beautiful brunette had caught my eye — she looked like Rachel from The Real World: San Francisco, only with flawless skin. A few weeks later, faux-Rachel noticed my Yankees jersey, and said hello. I mumbled hi back. This thrilling conversation recurred every so often — I was slowly, inexorably sealing the deal — until my junior year, when I overheard two people talking in the library. "Did you hear? R. Kelly was playing basketball in the gym and asked out that hot front-desk girl!" a guy stage-whispered across the stacks. "He's taking her to see the Sixers play tonight, courtside."

My heart sank; I knew it was my girl he was talking about. R. Kelly was a playa and I was a chump.

Nearly a decade later, the world has changed. I've been in a relationship for more than three years — a solid amount of time, but still only half as long as R. Kelly's child-pornography case took to go to trial. Yet I still can't help but trust the man when it comes to impressing the ladies. My girlfriend, Becca, and I are going strong, but I figured taking counsel from R. Kelly could only help our relationship. We spent most nights together sharing a pizza and watching 30 Rock; maybe it was time to step up my game. I decided to seriously seduce my girl, relying strictly on the ideas and lyrics of the self-proclaimed "Pied Piper of R&B."

I spent days poring over the R. Kelly catalog, pulling out anything I thought could be used to seduce Becca. The man's songs became so ingrained in my mind that I started singing, "bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce" on a loop at the office. There's actually an excellent chance that my co-workers hate me. But it was good research, and it helped me plot out my official R. Kelly playbook.

Step 1: Dress fly.

On the night of the experiment, this was my first priority. Unfortunately, the closest thing I had to an actual R. Kelly-style outfit was an Alan Houston jersey and a matching Knicks hat. Though similar to Kelly's Celtics getup from the "Ignition (Remix)" video, it was not exactly fly. The best I could come up with was an orange suede jacket, a white t-shirt, clean jeans, and a fedora.

Step 2: Ensure that the ambiance is hot and fresh out the kitchen.

I lit candles all over the apartment, and put on R. Kelly's greatest-hits album, The R in R&B. Becca is not the biggest fan of R&B, but I figured there was no way around it.

Step 3: Loosen up her inhibitions with a sensual, seductive cocktail.

In "Ignition (Remix)," Kelly sings "We're sippin' on Coke and rum/I'm like so what I'm drunk/It's the freakin' weekend, baby/I'm about to have me some fun." It was actually only Wednesday, but since we had the rest of the week off, I figured Becca and I were entitled to some fun. I poured us some Diet Cokes and rum (deviating from the song's specific instructions, I know, but my baby doesn't like the sugar of regular Coke). Despite my thoughtfulness, Becca said she really wanted a glass of Merlot. I insisted on the drinks I'd prepared. That didn't make her too happy. It was time to kick this sucker into high gear.

Step 4: Give her all the little things she's been waiting for, in R. Kelly-lyrics form.

Since R. Kelly is a master seducer who managed to pick up the hot girl from college in no time at all, I figured he could be my modern-day Cyrano. Looking Becca deep in her piercing blue eyes, I started things off with a line from "Bump N' Grind." "See," I said, "I know just what you want, and I know just what you need, girl. So baby, bring your body to me." She looked at me like I was an idiot. I tried again: "I'm not fooling around with you, baby. My love is true. With you is where I wanna be." Still nothing. This was heading toward disaster.

Then I remembered the first line of Kelly's classic "You Remind Of Something": "You remind me of my Jeep, I wanna ride it." Just two days earlier, Becca had bought a brand new CR-V — not a Jeep per se, but a vehicle with Jeep-like qualities. (And one rated first in its class for safety, at that.) Despite this coincidence, the line was lost on my girlfriend. "What are you talking about?" she said. "You're being weird."

Sexy talk clearly wasn't working, but maybe a straight-up emotional confession would. I figured "I Believe I Can Fly" (perhaps my favorite R. Kelly tune) would get me out of this mess for sure. "Becca," I said softly. "I used to think that I could not go on, and life was nothing but an awful song. But now I know the meaning of true love. I'm leaning on your everlasting arms."

There was silence for a few moments. "Is that R. Kelly?" Becca asked.

I decided to play dumb. "What?"

"Rum and Coke, quoting songs… is this some sort of experiment you're going to write about?"

"It's just something I was trying out. I wanted to give you a special night… "

"I can't believe you," she cut in before I could finish. "I've been looking forward to having a nice night with you all week: drink wine, talk, have sex… and you pull this?"

Now I needed to explain in a hurry. "I figured I would give you a nice, fun night — we'd do the R. Kelly stuff, and then have the sex."

"Well, that's not happening," she said. "You've ruined it."

Step 5: Get that girl in a bubble bath, and make sweet love till morning.

My plan, post-dinner, had been for us to strip naked and get all lathered up in the tub (inspired by "Strip For You" and "Get Up On A Room," respectively). Instead, Becca watched Love Actually while I took a bath alone, soaking in defeat as I finished off the bottle of rum. The girl barely spoke to me until the next morning.

If I'd thought about it a little harder before trying to institute his playbook, I might have realized that R. Kelly is full of shit. For all the guy's swagger, his wife divorced him. And a lot of the hot sex he sings about seems to have been with underage girls. ("Allegedly.")

My life may not be full of threesomes, whips and chains, and hot wax, but at the end of the day, I look Becca in the eyes and we have real passion. If I ever want to take inspiration from Kelly's track "Sex in the Kitchen," I know my girlfriend doesn't need to be persuaded by anyone's words but mine.