R. Kelly woos Baton Rouge on Valentine’s Day

Sometimes finding the perfect Valentine’s Day gift can be tough, especially if you and your significant other have been together for a while. Lovers looking for something more exciting than flowers and chocolate will fall head over heels for R. Kelly’s Love and Laughter concert, which is coming to the Baton Rouge River Center on Valentine’s Day.

Ever since R. Kelly went solo in 1993, he has become known for chart-topping success and mood-setting music, and despite a throat surgery in 2011, he hasn’t slowed down much over the years. The Chicago native was recently named the No. 1 R&B artist of the last 25 years by Billboard, and his most recent album, “Write Me Back,” made SPIN magazine’s Best Albums of 2012 list. This king of R&B has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide.

Adrian Hammond, the show promoter and president of The Affiliate Nation, an arts and entertainment company, put the event together. He explained that the show is called Love and Laughter because it combines music and comedy. Before R. Kelly takes the stage, the audience will be entertained by up-and-coming singers Kennedi Rayne, 16-year-old Shalyric and Cupid, as well as by comedians J.J. Williamson and Bigg Sexxy.

Hammond, who has been working to get the show put together for some time, said that he selected comedians who he thought would bring the house down.

“Big Sexxy is actually from Baton Rouge. He’s an up-and-coming comedian,” Hammond said. “I noticed him a couple of years ago at a show, and I admire the work that he’s done and the impression he’s made over the years, so I reached out to him. J.J. Williamson is one of Cedric the Entertainer’s comedians. He’s been touring with Cedric for years now. He’s a real good friend of mine, and we’re actually filming both Bigg Sexxy and Williamson for a special that will air on Comedy Central.”

Hammond explained that Baton Rouge native Kennedi Rayne is a neo soul singer “with a bit of a Jill Scott/Erykah Badu vibe” who combines old school soul and new age R&B.

“A name that you haven’t seen because she’s a surprise is Shalyric,” he said. “Just last week she was over in Atlanta auditioning for ‘The Voice,’ and she made it through. She’s 16 years old, but she has the vocals of a veteran.”

Hammond said Shalyric’s voice reminded him of Whitney Houston.

For those who prefer to dance along rather than sing along, Hammond recruited Cupid, whose biggest hit spawned a popular dance in 2007.

“He came out with ‘The Cupid Shuffle,’ which was one of the No. 1 songs in the country for a while,” Hammond said. “He’s from Lafayette. ‘The Cupid Shuffle’ originates from stepping. And R. Kelly is from Chicago, and stepping originates from Chicago, so I thought it was a great opportunity to do a song or two for both the Baton Rouge and Lafayette fanbases. He was a great addition to the show.”

R. Kelly has a body of work that includes some of the biggest songs of the last two decades. His songs span from inspirational to extremely sexual. With such a large repertoire at his disposal, one wonders which songs he will choose for his upcoming show.

“He is doing it all,” Hammond said. “It will be a two-hour performance. It will be a performance of a lifetime, but R. Kelly has so many hits he could literally perform for three and a half hours and keep going. His catalogue is very extensive.”

Hammond admitted that trying to bring R. Kelly to Baton Rouge became a labor of love due to the performer’s full schedule.

“It didn’t take a long time to get a hold of him, but it took us eight months to get the deal flowing because his schedule was so busy, and right when we were about to book him he dropped another album and the label immediately sent him on tour,” Hammond explained. “I’m honored to be able to work with him. It took some time to get it done, and I could have taken it anywhere in the world, but I wanted to bring him to Baton Rouge.”

Hammond is grateful for the support that Baton Rouge has shown him throughout his years of promoting acts in and around the city.

“I want to thank Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas for their support,” Hammond said “I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old, and to be able to continue doing it, and to do it in my hometown, means a lot. I will continue to bring big artists that normally don’t come through here to the Baton Rouge River Center.”

R. Kelly’s Love and Laughter show hits the Baton Rouge River Center on Feb. 14. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. More information about the show, including a link to buy tickets and dining and hotel accommodations near the concert, can be found at www.rkellyontheriver.com. More information about the Baton Rouge River Center can be found at www.brrivercenter.com

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