The very first five chapters of R. Kelly’s hip hopera (his term), Trapped in the Closet, were released as audio tracks in spring of 2005 (the videos would come later that year) and let me tell you, that was a very special time, at least in my life. Back then, I was living with two roommates in a house in Michigan. Each week, one of my roommates, Travis, would come home from work around 11PM on Tuesday nights having downloaded the latest installment off of a message board. I’m not even sure how we played them on the stereo–this was before smartphones and everything, I think he might have actually burned each new track onto a CD-R. All I know is that he would come home with a precious new chapter that we had anxiously been anticipating for an entire week, friends would come over, and we would gather in the living room like some depression-era family waiting for the latest episode of The Shadow. We played the song SO LOUDLY, and we also played it MANY TIMES IN A ROW, savoring each turn in the narrative so that by the end we could sing along. This sounds like typical revisionist, nostalgic, blogger hyperbole, but I promise you it isn’t. Like I said, this was a very special time, because I had never experienced anything like this before or since. This is how the elders must have felt when they first heard Wagner’s Ring Cycle. I was way more excited to listen to new installments of Trapped in the Closet than I have ever been about, say, a new episode of Breaking Bad (and that includes season finales). I loved those first few chapters so much that I actually was non-plussed when R. Kelly released the first Trapped in the Closet DVD featuring an additional seven chapters because those were ONLY released with their accompanying music videos, and we couldn’t enjoy the sacred and hilarious ritual of downloading and enjoying the audio tracks in the same way.

Earlier this year, it was announced that R. Kelly would be releasing all new chapters on IFC. This is obviously great news, but it should also make everyone pause. We were pretty excited when those new Star Wars movies were going to come out, too, and look how that turned out. It is absolutely possible (and rather easy) to imagine R. Kelly pulling a Jar Jar Binks on this thing. But even more importantly, while this new leg of the journey will no doubt be funny and enjoyable, it will also be self-aware and drenched in anticipation. Is it even possible for Trapped in the Closet to recapture any of its earlier magic, or is it now a calcified pop cultural dinosaur? Fascinating but bloodless? Well, the entire series will be ready by Thanksgiving, but the first new chapter was leaked early, and you can watch it after the jump and decide for yourself.

OK, I take back everything that I just said. This is gonna b doooooooope. WHERE ARE YOU CHUUUUUUUUUUUUCK?! (Via Stereogum.)

Comments (13)
  1. I intend to recapture the magic of my first viewing of Trapped in the Closet by drinking pink champagne through a Twizzler while I watch the new one.

  2. R. Kelly is a genius

  3. I used to teach ESL and used Trapped in the Closet pretty heavily in my classes. It works really well, since it is so literal in the lyrics. “And then I walked to the closet, and then I opened the closet,” etc. All to say, I like to imagine there are a handful of people in South Korea, Thailand, and Japan who are very excited about these new chapters.

  4. Hold up, James is Michael Kenneth Williams?!?!?!?! All of Krispy Kreme’s songs make so much sense now.


  6. He deserves a lot of credit for rhyming Bridget and Midget.

  7. So I’m just curious, Gabe; what makes this different than all of those sequels they’re coming out with that you always complain about?

  8. I have to admit, I never expected to be charmed by an anecdote about Trapped in the Closet.

  9. My hope is that someday these videos will attain such a cult following that people will have midnight screenings of Trapped in the Closet and dress up and act out all of the parts ala The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That would be awesome.

  10. I too have a special connection to Trapped In The Closet.

    Back around the same time that Gabe is referring to, I worked in a post-production house in New York. One day, this project came through.

    We didn’t have a ton of work to do on it, as the FX department of the company was just doing a small amount of work on the opening shot Chapter 1. I didn’t even know about it or expect to be involved, but when they had finished their work, one of the editors I assisted was given the task of tacking the completed opening on and producing a new master.

    I took the tape into our machine room, patched the deck into our editing suite, and sat down to load the video into our Avid. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing (or hearing). I won’t describe it, because you’ve all seen it, but my reaction was basically to run around the facility and grab anyone under 30 who wasn’t otherwise busy. They had to see this. I had to tell my friends who didn’t work there. People had to know about this monstrosity.

    Time passed. Maybe a few weeks or a month. It’s hard to say now. But slowly, the world discovered Trapped In The Closet. And even though I had virtually nothing to do with creating it, I tell this story whenever it comes up because TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET.

  11. Nothing to do with it? Instead of drowning that abomination in a vat of quicklime and then setting the building on fire (just to make certain), you pretty much midwifed a cultural apogee. I congratulate you, sir.

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