When I saw the news, I almost spat coffee all over my computer screen. I just about literally jumped for joy. I definitely squealed and jittered and damn near wore out Facebook’s “Share” function. Of course, my emphatic reaction may well have been influenced by the fact that I was on the tail end of a cracked-out three-day study binge—but I’d like to think that tidings of R. Kelly’s groundbreaking hip-hopera, Trapped in the Closet, would provoke a comparable response from anyone who’s experienced even one of its initial 22 glorious chapters.
Moreover, this particular announcement was one of pure, unadulterated excellence: Not only will the series be returning—its 23rd installment premiered on IFC on Nov. 23—but as he announced at its premiere party, Kelly is also apparently in talks to develop this beloved project of his into a Broadway musical.
Of course, my immediate next step was to find the newest chapter online, and as soon as I pressed play, my heart began to swell. It was just how I remembered it—the same persistent backbeat that alternates between two basic four note patterns, barettas at every turn, and lyrics that sound like they were written out on the back of an Arby’s napkin—or, more likely, simply improvised into a microphone late at night with a decent amount of chemical assistance.
In fact, the very first time I attempted to watch the series, my friends and I were, shall we say, not in the world’s most lucid state—and as such, the entire experience took on the quality of a bizarre and somewhat disturbing dream upon waking. The next morning, we wondered aloud whether or not we had, indeed, seen what we had seen:
“B-but ... That part where the character named Bridget is cheating on her husband ... With a midget? Like, just because it rhymes?”
“Yep, definitely remember that.”
“Okay, fine. But what about the part where an entire church congregation is encouraging ‘Pimp Lucius,’ who I’m pretty sure was R. Kelly in a wig—”
“To change his ways by singing ‘You can do it, Pimp Lucius’ for like four straight minutes? No, dude, I know. It all totally happened.”
And with that, Trapped in the Closet earned its title as one of the greatest pieces of pop ephemera we’d ever seen.
Now I would like to stress that, at least on my part, this love is in no way ironic or otherwise insincere. I appreciate R. Kelly’s wonderfully insane saga the same way I appreciate Paris Hilton’s latest single, “Drunk Text,” with its Xangarific lyrics about “a hot mess of misspelled obscenities.” Everything about these offerings is just so delightfully unabashed as to border on camp, but in each case, they’re weighted down by a sense of sincerity that can’t but make them sincerely fabulous.
Because, think about it: R. Kelly has put a massive amount of work into this series. Not only does he voice all of its many hours (often in questionable accents—see: Bridget), but he also plays a sizable chunk of its roles onscreen. Moreover, as he revealed at the premiere event (and as everyone always suspected), “I’m the only one in the studio writing these chapters.” In the man’s own words: “Trapped in the Closet is an alien ... I’m glad to be one of the astronauts to take this trip to a place unknown.” R. Kelly believes in this project, you guys. He believes it can touch the sky. He thinks about it every night and day... (Okay, stopping now.)
So I will wait, dutifully, reverently, with bated breath, for the day I hear that Trapped in the Closet: The Musical has beamed down from this man’s absurd head to open on Broadway—and, until then, for each of the 85 new episodes Kelly says have already been recorded. Perhaps I’ll even encourage the process from the sidelines with my own chorus of “You can do it, Pimp Lucius.” Because clearly, he can, and he will.