Randomising the record collection #2: R. Kelly ‎– Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)

#5185 – R. Kelly ‎– Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)
(CD single, 1996) (Discogs tracklisting)

02-r kelly

And on Day Two, my randomiser gives me a second R&B song about infidelity. This time around, a woman is doing the cheating, and R. Kelly is her lover, agonising over the situation and hoping that the secret love becomes permanent. For the chorus (“keep it on the down low, nobody has to know”), Ernie Isley steps in, adding creamy vocal chops to the stately, classic-soul arrangement. On the 12″ mix – the second of five tracks on this 38 minute CD single – a long, piano-led instrumental coda fleshes the track out satisfyingly, unlike the radio mix’s all too sudden fade.

But wait – there’s more to this tale than meets the eye. On the Blame It On The Mo’ mix, Kelly presents a whole new version of the song, with a beatier feel and wholly different lyrics. “If Mr. Biggs comes in and catches, oh my goodness, he’ll be freaked when lookin’ at your pretty titties in the air”, Kelly wails, reverting to wearingly familiar type. So, who’s this Mr. Biggs when he’s at home?

On the fifth and final track (yep, I’ve skipped the instrumental again), all is revealed, over the course of over 16 minutes. This time around, the Blame It On The Mo’ version is prefaced by a full-scale mini-drama, pre-dating Kelly’s notorious “Trapped In The Closet” series by nine years. Kelly starts the action in a noisy jazz bar, as he is recruited by gangland boss Mr. Biggs (voiced by Ernie Isley) and given the job of looking after Biggs’ wife Jessica. She and Kelly drive out on a shopping trip. In-car rumpy-pumpy ensues. There is moaning, there is groaning. “Turn the radio up”, she commands – and mercifully, the strains of the Blame It On The Mo’ version swell up, drowning out all further unseemly squelching.

Over 38 minutes, we have journeyed from the sublime to the ridiculous. From now on, I’ll be sticking with the sublime.


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