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‘Trapped in the Closet’ Chapter Fifteen: Up in Smoke

Courtesy of IFC.com

It's Wednesday and you know what that means: another brilliant, genius dropping from the tortured psyche of Robert Sylvester Kelly. Trapped in the Closet: Chapter Fifteen is up available at IFC.com, and we've asked performance artists Neal Medlyn and Kenny Mellman (Kiki & Herb), creators of the musical Kenny Mellman + Neal Medlyn = Robert Kelly, to help us make sense of it.

Recap: Twan confronts Tina and Roxanne about the night the three of them were arrested and Twan, alone, was sent to prison. Sylvester, smoking heavily, tries to remind Twan that his future freedom depends on his remaining calm. Roxanne says that Tina was pregnant with Twan’s baby at the time of their arrest.

Mellman: While watching this episode, all that was in my mind was the mental picture of Kellz alone in his music studio actually laying this shit down. He has no boss. He's the auteur. He's a true independent artist.

But, because of that, he gives every utterance equal weight — he has no filter. In a typical work of art, that would be a problem. As a viewer, you expect to be guided toward the important words or melodies or thoughts. But here, the gun's being placed on the counter is given the same weight as "he flicks ashes on the floor." And, because of that, it all becomes important and I find myself wondering what those ashes represent. Probably nothing, but in some later chapter they might become the entire focus.

I just picture him alone in a studio with that same track playing over and over and over and over, and he's quietly going crazy, and he's so excited, and suddenly he realizes that he might be going to jail. And suddenly the story takes a turn and we learn why Twan went to jail. I mean, is it autobiography? Are all the characters just different parts of Kellz's personality?

Medlyn: Boy, that midget and the old-man fart jokes seem suddenly very far away.

“Then what? Then what? LIFE!” (as in life in prison) Kellz/Sylvester shouts at Twan, and the music stops completely, and I suddenly got very afraid for Twan. Prison won’t be any fun, Twan! When are you going to learn to change your ways? As Ice Cube says in Friday, “Ain’t nobody playing but you.”

I agree, I spent a lot of the episode wondering how much this is an internal monologue between the old R. Kelly who got in all that trouble and the new R. Kelly who’s just trying to be a flirt. I think IFC even hints at that with the ending interview bit where he overhears himself singing how Twan was in prison previously for “three years, but this time it’ll be worse” and Kelly says, “Yeah … yeah.”

Very serious this whole installment, like he spent a little too much time watching The Wire or something. Still, I had to chuckle a lot at the focus on smoking in these new episodes. It’s like Kellz just started sneaking his mom’s cigarettes and is furiously trying out every smoking pose: smoke takes instead of spit takes, holding it this way and that, using smoke as punctuation.

By the way, is that Will Oldham as one of the cops?!? I’m going to believe it is, especially since he’s in that Zach Galifianakis–Kanye West video on YouTube. Given this, I have decided he is the vanguard of the indie folks, finally wising up and realizing that they’ve missed the genius boat. They’ve squandered their energy on recording albums on old four-track recorders, leaving guys like R. Kelly to do all the innovating!

Trapped in the Closet Chapter Fifteen [IFC.com]