R Kelly was raised in Chicago, Illinois, and he began exploring his musical talents in high school. His major formative influences include iconic soul artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and Sam Cook. Kelly has a particularly wide vocal range and can transition easily between baritone and alto/countertenor.
R Kelly studied at Chicago's Kenwood Academy, where one of his teachers, Lena McLIn, encouraged him to sing Stevie Wonder's "Ribbon in the Sky" at a talent show. Afterward, McLin encouraged an indignant Kelly to abandon basketball to spend more time on music. Kelly achieved his first notoriety participating on a television talent program called "Break Out" in 1989, which was quickly followed by his debut album, "Born in the 90's."
R. Kelly sang in his Baptist church choir as a child, and religion continues to influence some of his lyrics. Kelly insists that he never writes any of his lyrics down beforehand, preferring instead to ad lib or freestyle lyrical ideas in studio settings. In addition to successes as a recording artist, R Kelly has also produced and directed several musical comedy-dramas, collectively titled "Trapped in the Closet," and written an autobiography entitled "Soulcoaster: The Diary of Me."