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R. Kelly on Meeting Prince: 'I Was No Longer R. Kelly, I Was Just a Big Fan Talking to a Hero'

R. Kelly 2016
Paras Griffin/BET/Getty Images for BET

R. Kelly performs during the 2015 Soul Train Music Awards at the Orleans Arena on Nov. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas.

The first thing R. Kelly heard when he woke up Thursday (April 21) was that Prince had passed away.

"My thoughts are the same as everybody else's thoughts; First, I'm stunned and then just sad over the thing," Kelly told Billboard shortly after the news broke. "I'm just shocked, man. I'm still stunned about the whole situation, man."

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Kelly, whose debut album 12 Play came out when Prince was in the midst of his "slave" war with Warner Bros. Records, has always been flattered by those who compared him to the Minneapolis auteur over the years -- particularly because of his prolific songwriting and self-contained approach to music making. "He fits all over my career 'cause I was inspired by Prince just like every other young artist," Kelly noted. "I was very inspired by him, man, just over the years of him being on top of his game when I was trying to be IN the game. I was a street performer. He has such a big catalog and has been in the game so long. I remember every song being a hit. You say 'Prince' and you say 'hit,' y'know? That's what he did. He was just a gifted, talented, writer, producer, performer -- all of that, man."

Kelly met Prince on a couple of occasions as well. "I sat in a club with him and talked with him and had a couple of drinks," Kelly recalled. "It was very inspiring for me, absolutely. Just having a conversation with him stuck with me. The first time I met him, the minute I sat down and talked to Prince I was no longer R. Kelly. I was just a big fan talking to a hero."

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