Robert Sylvester Kelly was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1967. He was the eldest of four children and lived in the Southside Projects. In high school, Kelly performed in talent shows and had his dreams reinforced by a high school music teacher who told him he would be a star. The process was slow as R. Kelly started singing in train stations and other areas of the street by piano.
In 1989, R. Kelly was a member of the group MGM and released their first single 'Why You Wanna Play Me' in 1989. In 1991, R. Kelly met Aaliyah and recorded an album with his group Public Announcement at a recording studio. The album was a big success, helping to propel R. Kelly's solo career.
R. Kelly left the group in 1993 to try and establish himself as a solo artist. His first solo album, 12 Play. The album was a huge success, reaching number 2 on the charts and sold over 5 million copies. It had the hit single 'Bump n' Grind' which was number 1 on the charts for four weeks. The single 'Your Body's Callin' from the cd was also highly successful, reaching number 2 on the R&B charts.
He did most of the work for Aaliyah's debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number which went platinum. The two artists allegedly married illegally but had it quickly annulled and Aaliyah ceased to work with R. Kelly.
In 1995, Kelly released his second solo album, R. Kelly. The album was a great success, selling over 7 million copies. All three of its singles, 'You Remind Me of Something,' 'Down Low,' and 'I Can't Sleep Baby (If I)' made it to number 1 on the R&B charts. The album earned R. Kelly the respect of many in the industry and he reinforced this with strong songwriting for other artists. He wrote the Michael Jackson hit 'You Are Not Alone' which went to number 1 on the charts.
One of the songs R. Kelly is most well known for, 'I Believe I Can Fly' was released in 1996 and made it to #2 on the Top 100. The song also earned R. Kelly three Grammy awards. In 1998, Kelly released his most successful album to date, R. The album sold 8 million copies and had the #1 pop single 'I'm Your Angel' featuring Celine Dion. Two of its other singles 'Did You Ever Think' and 'If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time' did well also, making it to number 8 and number 5 on the R&B charts respectively.
R. Kelly then released a sequel to the album 12 play, known as TP-2.com in 2000, which did well, selling 4 million copies. The album's singles 'I Wish' and 'Fiesta' both made it to number 1 on the R&B charts.
Dark times struck R. Kelly then as he released The Best of Both Worlds album in 2002. The album debuted at number 2 on the pop charts but was attacked critically and only went platinum.
At the same time, charges were filed against R. Kelly for 21 counts of child pornography. Tapes surfaced on the internet and R. Kelly was identified in them. A trial surrounding the tapes took a long time to begin, only starting jury selection in May of 2008. The trial ended on June 9, 2008 with R Kelly found not guilty.
R. Kelly's music career picked up despite the personal issues and he released the album Chocolate Factory in 2003. The album came out at number 1 and went two times platinum. It also featured hit singles 'Ignition' and 'Step in the Name of Love.' He also worked heavily with B2K and produced the album Body Kiss by The Isley Brothers, their first to reach number 1.
In 2004 he released the double album Happy People/U Saved Me which peaked at number 2 on the charts and went three times platinum. He also released Unfinished Business, a second collaboration with Jay Z that debuted at number 1 and went platinum. The duo went on tour but conflicts arose as R. Kelly would arrive at shows late and leave in the middle of them.
The following year, R. Kelly released TP-3: Reloaded which went to number 1 on the charts and has since gone platinum. It featured the innovative Trapped in the Closet which developed into a ten part series of songs that were released to the radio.