The Singer: As one of the longest running bands in R&B, the Isley Brothers have been charting hits since the late ‘50s. A string of Isleys have passed through the group, but Ron Isley remains both the only constant member of the band and the group’s signature vocalist. Sometime during the mid-’90s, Ron introduced his alter ego Mr. Biggs, a big-spend, big-loving pimp who initially acted as a villainous foil in several R. Kelly videos. R. repaid the favor by co-writing and producing the Isleys’ 1996’s Mission to Please, 2001’s Eternal and 2003’s excellent Body Kiss, which yielded the hit “What Would You Do?” and this week’s slow jam, “Busted.”
The Song: Even if he didn’t sing all over the chorus, it would be impossible to miss R. Kelly’s mark on this song: the minimal, circular instrumental loop, the pronounced downbeat, and especially the “ridiculous-dialogue-as-song-lyrics” trope all bear his stamp. Talk all you want about the “Trapped in the Closet” series – “Busted” has more than enough flat-out amazing (and endlessly repeatable) lines. Mr. Biggs’ line of questioning to his duplicitous lady is at Matlockian levels: “How the hell is she your friend / if you don’t know if she’s got kids?” All this back-and-forth leads to the chorus, which ends with the definitive kiss-off – “go upstairs and get your shit / and get the fuck up out of here” (edited, of course, but you get drift). And for all the incongruity of the lyrics and the shoehorning of back-story into a pop song, it remains a completely addictive song. That R. Kelly is some kind of genius.
The Video: This may be the best video you’ll see all year. The kitchen-sink drama of the song plays out in Mr. Biggs’ palatial estate, with Kells playing the other man and Ernie Isley pulling double duty as both Biggs’ security guard and his roving guitarist. Mr. Biggs’ fashion makes the video a classic – not many men can wear a Celtics jersey and a white fur coat in unison, but there you have it. Watch at 3:18 for Biggs’ best acting in the video, as he shakes his fingers while interrogating his lady. Do they give Academy Awards for this stuff?
Hipster Cachet: Few R&B stars captivate the attention of the hipster class like R. Kelly. The aforementioned “Trapped in the Closet” series made him a pop-culture punching bag, but only a philistine can deny the man’s awesomeness.