R. Kelly has a new album recorded and is aiming to release it imminently, sources tell Billboard.
Though the music was recorded while the singer was under contract at Sony’s RCA Records, R. Kelly reclaimed ownership of his unreleased works as part of his agreement to leave the record label earlier this month, sources say. The split came just two weeks after the premiere of the six-part Lifetime channel documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which depicted allegations of sexual misconduct that have been levied against the singer for years. (Kelly, who was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, has denied all allegations.)
It isn’t clear how R Kelly will release the album, but he has plenty of options, from going through an indie distributor or signing a deal with a new label to potentially uploading the project directly onto Spotify, though a rep said Spotify’s direct-upload feature is still in beta and available to only a small number of artists, which does not include Kelly. One source tells Billboard that Kelly’s team had been looking for a new distributor for months, before the Lifetime documentary came out. It’s possible the release won’t hit the market as soon as hoped, other sources say. (A lawyer for Kelly declined to comment on his music plans.)
Kelly released his debut solo album, 12 Play, in November 1993, and saw it reach No. 2 on the Billboard 200. That kicked off a string of hit albums that produced 14 top 10s in a run that lasted through 2013, including six No. 1s, as well as seven top five Hot 100 singles. His latest album was 2016’s holiday-themed 12 Nights of Christmas, which is now his final album with Sony. On his own, he took to Soundcloud to release the tracks “I Admit” in July and “Born To My Music” in January.
Following the finale of the Surviving R. Kelly series, streams of his catalog — which is still owned by Sony — increased 116 percent in the United States from the day of its premiere, according to Nielsen Music, while radio airplay of his music dropped significantly.