Ol' Bonny Prince Billy loves him so R Kelly.
For Interview magazine, Oldham sat down with Kelly. Two fucking singular dudes, mano a mano. But it's not really a matching of wits—Oldham is a diligent interviewer, reverent even. The strange pairing gets off to a slow start but eventually Oldham pulls out some interesting and of course cockeyed bits, including the following, about Kelly's origins as a street performer in Chicago:
OLDHAM: What kinds of songs would you do?
KELLY: I would do my original songs. Or I would make up some songs to do. The reason I got into street performing was that I discovered myself. [laughs] You know, I used to be walking around with my homies, just playing. We used to just go down on Rush Street, because that’s where all the rich folks would be. We’d be little bums from the ’hood, but we’d go down there and walk around the rich people, just messing around. So we were clowning one day and I threw a hat on the ground and said, “Watch this.” And I started singing. I put my glasses on and I sang, “Oh, so long for this night I prayed / That a star would guide you my way / To share with me this special day / Where a ribbon’s in the sky for our love . . . ” And then the white people started crowding around me and throwing dollars and change in my hat—and I was just doing it for a joke! But they started paying me.
OLDHAM: Had your voice changed yet?
KELLY: Nah, it was still up there, man. [laughs] But these people just started throwing money in the hat. We made about $50 that day, just playing around—I mean, we didn’t have 50 cents in our pockets! I gave my friends a dollar apiece—there were four of us—and I kept all the rest and took everybody to Giordanno’s and we ate some pizza. People thought we was in there messing around, because we was young. But I showed the lady the money and she let us come on in and get a table. So after that I said, “Man, I’m comin’ back down here tomorrow.” So I started coming down and singing and got me enough money to get a little keyboard, put some batteries in it, and start messing around and writing my own little songs. I was the highest-paid street performer, probably, in the history of Chicago. I was making like $800 a day.
OLDHAM: Did you have other street performers try to say, “This is my turf!”?
KELLY: Yeah, but I would just give them $100 and they would go running like, “Whoo-hoo!” [laughs] I started creating gimmicks and stuff. For instance, when a lady would come down up under the L, she would have a McDonald’s bag in her hand and everything like that, so I said, “I should write a McDonald’s song, because everybody always comes down from the L with McDonalds.” So I wrote a song that was like [sings], “McDonald’s is the place for you / When the day is through / You can go to McDonald’s and get yourself a Big Mac / Big Mac / Order a fries, icy coke and a apple pie / No one does it like McDonald’s / Dooh-ooh, McDonald’s and you . . . ” [Oldham laughs] Sometimes I would do Stevie Wonder—I would sing “Part-Time Lover” to the instrumental. But mostly I would just sing my own songs. I was hustling.
H/T: Jen Graves & Line Out
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