There’s a rotten stench wafting over New Music Friday. It was supposed to be a blessed day, as SZA has finally dropped SOS, the long-awaited (and instantly acclaimed) follow-up to her 2017 album Ctrl. But also out today on streaming platforms is an ostensible new album from...R. Kelly.
At first blush, this is particularly bizarre, because R. Kelly is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence after being convicted on nine counts of sex trafficking and racketeering in a federal trial in Brooklyn. (In September, the singer/songwriter/producer was also found guilty on multiple charges related to child sex abuse material and enticement of a minor.) Maybe the most head-spinning thing about the project is its title, I Admit It, which carries a provocation similar to the supposed hypothetical 2007 memoir by fellow not-guilty-pleader O.J. Simpson, If I Did It.
So, what gives? Has Kelly been somehow recording music behind bars? Not this batch of tunes, he hasn’t. The 13-track I Admit It is actually a compilation of songs from recent years that have been floating around the internet. It opens with the six songs that comprised Kelly’s 2019 release EP, which itself seemed slapped together (track 3 was “I Found Love” and two tracks later he was asking “Where’s Love, When You Need It” but...you just said you found it!). EP was reportedly pulled from the internet shortly after being made commercially available, though its songs were uploaded to YouTube where they have lived since. Elsewhere on I Admit It, the barrel scraping of some Soundcloud releases (which appear on I Admit It in varying quality, including some very low-bitrate tracks that have that MP3 “cooked” texture) culminates with the 19-minute 2018 song “I Admit,” in which Kelly addressed the swirling allegations of abuse head on. A sample lyric:
I admit I fuck with all the ladies (Ladies)
That’s both older and young ladies (Yeah)
But tell me how they call it “pedophile” because of that
Shit, that’s crazy (Crazy)
You may have your opinions (Opinions)
Entitled to your opinions (Opinions)
But really, am I supposed to go to jail
Or lose my career because of your opinion?
In the new compilation, the song is called “I Admit It (I Did It)“ and broken into three parts.
Another very strange thing about this release is that its copyright credit—at least on Spotify and iTunes—lists the Sony/RCA property Legacy Recordings. Kelly was reportedly dropped by RCA in 2019 in the wake of the documentary Surviving R. Kelly. A rep from Legacy Recordings told Jezebel that I Admit It is, in fact, not a Legacy Recordings release. As has been extensively reported, unofficial uploads of demos and other ephemera from major artists have found their way onto streaming platforms in the past—2018 saw unofficial, soon-deleted uploads of unreleased music by Beyoncé and SZA. News of I Admit It sent R. Kelly trending on Twitter immediately Friday, but this “new R. Kelly album” is likely the R. Kelly album that wasn’t.