Robert Kelly is a shape-shifter. There’s Kelly the innocuous gospel choirboy, Kelly the pop-rap party-anthem king, Kelly the hyper-masculine male whose lyrics only depict women in the bedroom, Kelly the steppin’ MC, Kelly the perv—the man exhibits enough alter egos to warrant a psychoanalytical dissertation. Given a prolificacy matched only by Bob Pollard (though most of Kelly’s work remains unreleased), it seems fitting that, months before his official album, a mix tape would surface chronicling what Kelly had to offer for 2004.
The disc opens with “U Saved Me,” based on an event where Kelly comes across an old lady in a flipped car, and allegedly saves her. As the mix progresses, it’s clear that “Step in the Name of Love” and “Happy People” are gems of classic soul. But in “Sex in the Kitchen,” Kelly reminds us that comparisons to tragic icons like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye are bullshit. “Cuttin’ up tomatoes, vegetables, and potatoes; girl you look so sexy while you’re doing your damn thing,” he croons. “I walk into the kitchen, over by the stove, put you on the counter by the butter rolls. Hands on the table on your tippie toes, we’ll be makin’ love like the restaurant was closed.” Come and get it.