Jay Z complained about Kelly’s lack of concern for rehearsing and frequent tardiness. Kelly complained about Jay Z’s lighting crew leaving Kels in the shadows. The entire tour was plagued with insecurities, including Kelly allegedly getting into an altercation with the lighting director during a St. Louis show. It was a clash of two personalities that recognized the utter brilliance in one another but struggled to find common ground for creative purposes. The emotional fragility of Kelly is what gives his songs such an earnest, heartfelt gravitas. The business-minded Jay Z keeps a razor-sharp focus on moving onward and upward in his career. An unwavering boldness with a languid delivery that doesn’t have time to fuck around.
Everything came to a head at the now-infamous October 29th, 2004 Madison Square Garden show. Mere minutes into the performance, R. Kelly abruptly left the stage after claiming to have seen an audience member wave a gun at him. Whether someone actually waved a gun or not, no one else saw it happen. Twenty minutes later, Kelly headed back to perform, but it was too late. The butting of creative heads and conflicts just couldn’t bear the weight anymore between the two.
While Jay Z denies having anything to do with it, one thing is certain; as Kelly attempted to climb back on stage, he was met with a face full of pepper spray from a member of Jay’s crew. Kelly took a trip to the emergency room and was removed from the rest of the tour in a haze of “he said, she said” and multimillion dollar lawsuits.
Nearly ten years since that incident, and a dozen since The Best Of Both Worlds, the two are in pretty much the same places they left off. Jay still sits on top of the rap world, except now he’s wealthier, rapping about fine art more often than fine women. Meanwhile, R. Kelly continues to be dogged by the same allegations he faced and was acquitted of at trial in 2006, while still captivating the R&B world that is able to turn a blind eye, most recently with last year’s Black Panties album. The lawsuits have dried up between the two, but there remains little common ground.
Two of the greatest musical talents of this generation recorded two albums worth of music together but never truly coalesced as the duo they wished to become. No matter how bad we wanted it at the time, in the end, it looks like the world never needed it. —Brett Koshkin (@Bkoshkin)