No More Drama

R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" sputters to a disappointing close

On a fine recent evening spent drinking on the patio with a few of my white friends, I was surprised to find that our boozy conversation wasn't about pressing social issues or how the Man was keeping us all down. No, instead it was about how we're obsessed with "Trapped in the Closet."

For those of you who aren't familiar with "Closet" -- like one of my friends' wives, who was frankly disturbed at our level of involvement with the song -- it's R. Kelly's latest, well, project. You couldn't call it a single since it's broken down into five parts, which have been released more or less weekly over the past couple of months. In Kelly's words, it's an "epic urban soap opera" that has been slowly unfolding on black radio, a continuous narrative that's also going to be on his new album, TP.3 Reloaded, which comes out Tuesday. The chorus-free kitchen-sink cliff-hanger -- it keeps getting described in the press as a "ghetto Desperate Housewives" -- riveted many listeners, and parts four and five have long been the most heavily requested tracks on the Box.

(Spoiler alert: Don't read any further if you're planning to pick up Reloaded next week and acquaint yourself with all five parts at once. Okay? Good, now those of you who have been "Trapped" since March, or those of you who can't be bothered to listen to all five parts, read on…)

Mark Brooks

You'll remember that part one begins the same way many of R. Kelly's songs do: with Kelly assuming the role of a man who's been creeping. He wakes up in a woman's fifth-floor apartment, a woman who isn't his own girl. He puts on his clothes and is about to leave, but the lady freaks -- her husband is coming up the stairs! She tells Kelly to get his ass in the closet, pronto, and since he can't think of anywhere else to go, he obliges.

Okay, he's in the closet (hence the title), and the husband enters. The faithless lady hops all over him, butters him up, coos in his ear. Kelly is astounded by the woman's dramatic acumen, and he sings my favorite line in the whole damn thing: "I'm tellin' you now, this girl's so good that she deserves an Os-curr."

It's looking like Kelly will be able to beat a sneaky retreat, but he's undone by technology: His cell phone rings. He "tried [his] best to quickly put it on vi-bra-aaaate," but it's too late. The cuckolded man says there's a mystery and he's gonna solve it. While the man's looking in the bathroom, and behind, under and around all the furniture in the bedroom, Kelly pulls out his Beretta -- huh? -- just in case some shit goes down. The man finally inches his way toward the closet as the music swells to a crescendo. He opens the door, and as with each installment, the last word echoes ominously -- in this case, it's "closet…closet…closet…" Tune in next week, kids.

Timpani drums open up part two, and Kelly has his pistol cocked and pointed. He tries to explain to the man what happened. They were at the club, and ol' girl picked him up. The man, who turns out to be a pastor, is more disappointed than shocked, and he doesn't want to hear any of it. Besides, he's got a surprise of his own. He pulls out his ringing cell phone and tells the person he's been creeping with to turn back around and come up to the apartment. Kelly is shocked. The girl is shocked. As the man and woman argue and Kelly screams he's gonna shoot somebody, the mystery lady enters. The last line says it all: "He opens the door, I can't believe / It's a man…man…man!"

Part three: Four entangled lovers -- three of them men -- gape at one another, speechless. Eventually they speak, and we find out that the woman's name is Cathy, even though she told Kelly her name was Mary back at the club. Rufus is the preacher she wronged. The mystery "lady" is named Chuck. Rufus and Cathy start arguing. Kelly keeps threatening to shoot somebody, but they keep screaming at each other. Kelly can't take this shit anymore -- he fires a round into the ceiling to get them all to shut up, and then whips out his cell phone to call his lady back at his house. Whereupon he gets another shock: A man picks up the phone. End of part three.

Part four opens with Kelly leaving the messed-up threesome behind. He's "dashing home, doing 85 / Swerving lane to lane, with fire in [his] eyes," and his run of bad luck continues: He gets pulled over for speeding. He gets a ticket and continues on his angry way. He rushes inside to find his girl, all alone. Kelly demands to know who answered the phone. She tells him it was her brother -- did Kelly forget she told him he was coming? Oh, damn, my bad, he says. He apologizes as they both head up to the bedroom to put this messiness behind them. They immediately get into bed and she starts laying it on him like she's trying to clear some kind of debt. "And then she looked at me, and said, 'Baby, go deeper, please!' " Kelly croons. "That's when I started goin' crazy like I was tryin' to give her a baby!" Their toes curl; the room spins. It's getting so mind-blowingly good, Kelly gets a cramp in his leg. But just as the pair are about to share an earth-shattering mutual climax, he pulls back the covers and discovers -- "Oh, my God! A rub-ber!…rub-ber!…rub-ber!" End of part four.

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