During the Q&A session of tonight's "Trapped in the Closet: The Next Installment" premiere at Manhattan's Landmark Sunshine Cinema, a glasses-wearing woman in the front row sang the first few lines of "Bump N' Grind" with R. Kelly. It will likely be one of the best things to ever happen to said woman in her entire life. For R. Kelly, though, the moment was a bit confusing. "I'm trying to be Sylvester," he said after the brief singing interlude, referring to "Trapped"'s lead character. "And now I'm singing R. Kelly."
Considering his many musical guises-- inspirational belter, two-step marathon man, lascivious heartthrob, joke rapper, serious balladeer-- not to mention the myriad characters-- including a preacher, a pimp, a gangster, and a horny old man-- he plays in "Trapped", it's nice to know that, sometimes, R. Kelly is just as inexplicable to R. Kelly as he is to the rest of us.
I'm not going to give away the secrets of "The Next Installment", the first new series of "Trapped" chapters since 2007. That would spoil the fun. (The whole thing airs this Friday at 9 p.m. on IFC.) But I will say that musclebound thug with a heart of gold Twan is in full effect (as was the actor who plays him, Eric Lane, who was in attendance and looking very Twan-esque in a tight T-shirt and cross chain). And there is a new character played by R. Kelly, called Beeno, a raspy kingpin with a cloudy eye who sounds a little like an ancient DMX. There is a blind prostitute. And there is a not-totally-explained meta-narrative in which each of the characters sits down for a TV interview about their explicitly dramatic lives. (Apparently, the resulting "show"-- which seems to be a "Jerry Springer"-type of program-- will play a big role in the next round of chapters.) But it'll be more fun watching it than reading about it.
What was special about last night, though, was seeing R. Kelly live and in person mere feet away, talking about how "Trapped in the Closet" is "an alien, and I'm happy to be one of the astronauts to take this trip to places unknown." About how the character of Pimp Lucius was inspired by his stepfather, who stutters. About how he's had celebrities (like Tyrese Gibson) approach him to appear in the series, but he wants to keep the focus on new talent. And then there was the part at the end when he lead the whole audience in an "I Believe I Can Fly" singalong.
Kells looked like a very dapper contract killer in a black suit, red pocket square, and tan leather gloves. He held a half-smoked cigar between two fingers, which he never put down. He seemed genuinely surprised by the "Trapped" phenomenon, which, he said, simply allows him to let off some steam while making music: "I don't have a job, so I sit in the studio and think of stupid stuff." He said he's recorded audio for another 85 chapters, and that there's also a Broadway version of the "Trapped" saga in the works. This thing is far from over.