People say, ‘Well, I hear a lot of R. Kelly in your music.’ So what?” Songz told Vibe. “R. Kelly took Aaron Hall’s whole style. Two albums straight. … You can say what you want about me.” Trey Songz
I remember back in the 90s, Biting or copying somebody elses style, look, image or whatever you want to label was the most abnormal sin. Especially in hip hop. Wu Tang went at Biggie for copying Nas’s Ilmatic album cover by having his baby picture on it, Cypress Hill went at Ice Cube’s head for just using one of their hooks in his song, and Bone Thugs dedicated a whole Art of War album to people that they felt were copying their whole style. Hip Hop compared to today was more competitive and more rule striated, The same way with R&B where you had groups like Dru Hill copying Jodeci. But the main and most blatant form of style snatching came courtesy of R.Kelly from Aaron Hall.
Let me catch you guys up on a little bit of history. Aaron Hall and Guy were forerunners of the New Jack Swing movement. Aaron Hall had the similar vocal style to Charlie Wilson but he had a distinct voice that made him stand out from Charlie and he put his own style to it. Before R.Kelly and Bobby Brown, He was the real “”Nasty Man”” of R&B. He would make headlines with his sexual influenced acts on stage and put out classic babymakers such as Lets Chill, Piece of My Love and I Like.
It wasnt until Aaron Hall broke out on the solo tip is where he would take it to the next level. He cut his hair and rocked the fresh baldie, He wore his trademark black shades, and flaunted a more sexier image and it worked for him. His new style was debuted on the Juice soundtrack featured Dont Be Afraid which was more sexual than anything he’s put out(Both video and song). The song caused a little bit of controversy because people thought it incited a rape fantasy but the song was a smash and it took Aaron’s career to another level.
What was also interesting about 1992 was it was also the debut year of R.Kelly and his group Public Announcement. R.Kelly’s style back then was more Bobby Brown influenced, He came out with the high top fade, doing dance moves and was heavily on the New Jack Swing wave. His first single She Got that Vibe was similar to what Guy put out in the 80s and it wasnt a big hit to a degree but it was a start of things to come. It wasnt until R.Kelly released Dedicated and Honey Love is when people started to pay attention to his vocal skills and became love making classics.
(Kelly’s old style)
1993 was the year Aaron Hall was really getting some major shine. His debut album The Truth made a lot of noise and reached #1 on the R&B charts. The sexually aggressive First Single Get a Lil Freaky With Me was a appitizer for his female fan base but it was the song I Miss You that made Aaron Hall into a star. The video itself was probably one of the saddest videos to have ever been released as Aaron expresses his pain about how he misses his woman after losing her to a pregnancy complication. It’s a song that should be up there with classics such as Lenny Williams’s I Love You and Teddy Pendergrass I Miss You:
Seeing that Aaron Hall was gaining so much popularity. R.Kelly decides to go through a transformation himself and persue a solo career. The transformation to say to least was very similar to Aaron Halls. When he debuted his first single You’re Body’s Calling, You cant help but to think at one time that it was a coincidence that he may have used some of Aaron Hall’s style but it became more blatant and obvious on the more freaky 2nd single Bump N Grind where R.Kelly is wearing the same exact attire Aaron was wearing along with the bald head, the sunglasses, the stick, and the black vest. His lyrics were more sexual than before and what seems to have happened overnight R.Kelly started to blow up and 12 Play was a mega smash hit putting R.Kelly on the map and he would start off a career that would last close to 20 years.
As for Aaron Hall, He had to sit back and watch Kells take his whole style to another level and maintain a career that reached close to two decades. Kelly has since then remained a consistent hit maker. He would reinvent himself constantly so he can say relevant in a forever fickle market and has earned the respect of many by crossing over into Hip Hop, R&B, Pop, Reggae, and even doing Rock. He also produced for his newer acts starting with Aaliyah, making her debut album a success and would even produce songs for bigtime artist such as the late MIchael Jackson and Celine Dion.
Aaron Hall on the other hand did songs for soundtracks and dropped another album in 1998 titled Inside of You and it was critically acclaimed stellar album. It wasnt as good as his first album but it did contain some very smooth love ballads and still showed that Aaron was talented enough to make a solid album. He also made some waves by doing songs with Redman, Tupac, Biggie, Patra to keeping his name afloat in the game. But by that time, Aaron Hall was slowly fading out in the market and R.Kelly continued to have the R&B game in the chokehold by releasing his double album titled R that same year. This album was different from any of his previous as he would focus on his struggles with fame, his relationships, and basically appeal to the more hip hop crowd by featuring heavyweights such as JayZ, Nas, Foxxy, and Noreaga. The album wasnt as sexually explicit as his previous two but it showed Kells going out of the freak songs into a more artistic route conceptive. The Double album was a major hit and R.Kelly was officially the certified King of R&B.
The sad thing about the whole scenario is I don’t recall once R.Kelly paying homage or acknowledging Aaron Hall for that matter. He could at least gave him some phrase because the copying was too obvious for the average fan to overlook. Theres no denying that R.Kelly is a very talented individual and superb hit writer. It’s just very ludicrous how Kelly got away with biting and copying Aaron’s whole image and style without any form of backlash. Were we blinded by the classic music from 12 Play? Maybe so. But nevertheless Aaron Hall is a pioneer and should be respected so if anything R.Kelly should give that man some of his publishing because he possibly would have been Bobby Brown status by now and that’s real talk!