Have you guys ordered your copies of Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, yet? R. Kelly’s memoirs go on sale tomorrow, and from the excerpts on display at Rolling Stone’s website, they look like a corker. To answer your first two questions: No, they don’t address the alleged pissing incident, and no, they don’t explain the aha moment behind R.’s coining of the phrase “the freakin’ weekend.” What they do do is recount the R.’s meetings with a number of important hip-hop figures of the years—most notably, those twin pillars of ’90s hip-hop, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
The Tupac story has that kind of brief encounter feel to it, a split-second connection of like-minded souls that was too beautiful (or inconvenient timing-wise) for this world. It begins with Robert outside of a hotel, spotting Shakur “driving by in a bad-ass Bentley”:
“Yo Pac!” I yelled at the top of my voice.
He made a U-turn and jumped out of the car.
“What up, baby?” he asked.
“Just wanted to holla at you,” I said. “Just had to tell you that I love everything you do.”
“Hey, man,” said Pac, “coming from you that’s a helluva compliment.”
“Lots of cats say rap and R&B live in different parts of the planet, but I don’t see it that way, Pac. I see us all coming together. You feel me?”
“Been feeling the same way. It’s all the same thing. Beats, words, stories.”
“Man, we need to do an album.”
“Would love it.”
“I’m talkin’ about a whole album. A whole concept. A big game-changing record.”
“You got it, Kells. Tell me what studio and when to be there.”
“Gonna send you some tracks,” I said.
“Don’t need no tracks. Just need to know you wanna work with me. That’s enough. We’ll just let it do what it do.”
“God is good.”
“All the time,” said Pac.
We hugged and Pac went on his way.
R. goes on to say that the collab never happened due to timing issues, but both were always game in principle, and worked to pump each other’s rep at any given opportunity (“I’d go around saying, ‘No one is better at the rap game than Pac.’ And Pac went around saying, ‘Kells is the most serious R&B thug out there.’) Sounds like a real missed opportunity—though given what a debacle Best of Both Worlds experience ended up being, maybe it was an idea better left in theory.
Kells did end up collaborating with the Notorious B.I.G., however, and remembers playing Biggie an early draft of a song that would go on to be one of his greatest hits (in the hotel lobby, after the after-party, of-course):
I had just recalled that childhood dream with the cartoon characters chasing me. I remember the melody from that dream and was trying to figure out the rest of the lyrics, working on what would become “I Believe I Can Believe Fly.” Biggie and his crew came in the lobby about four in the morning.
“What’s up, baby! Great show, baby! What you doing?”
He came over to the piano, and I started to play it for him: “I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky . . .” but so far that’s all I had.
“I’m gonna tell you right now, B, that’s a smash. That’s a big hit right there. That’s a Grammy winner, Rob.”
When I was playing it for him, I was thinking – he’s a hardcore rapper; this is gonna be too soft for him – but when I got through and looked up, his face was wet with tears.
“My brother,” he said, “they gonna be playing that when you and I have moved on to the other side of time.”
A lot to extrapolate from those two lines, but he was at least half-right with his prediction. Biggie was such a visionary that he could probably see an image of Kells conducting the Space Jam Gospel Choir in his head long before movie and song even came together. (Maybe a good thing B.I.G. missed Jermaine Paul’s Voice-winning rendition of the song, though—he might still be bawling today.)
In any event, looks like we have our latest entry in the Popdust Book Club.