A few weeks back my flatmate and I were sitting in our kitchen mulling over what to watch to stave away the boredom now that Take Me Out has left us for another year. It was, in truth, a dark time for us. Our Saturday Night’s had become defined by pizza, beer and Paddy McGuinness. Then, my flatmate said the magic words:
“I haven’t seen Trapped In The Closet all the way through”
Now, a bit of context is appropriate here. My flatmate is a DJ. He likes hip-hop, grime, funkbeat, breakhouse, trancejazz, mumblecore and other musical genres, some of which I’ve made up. Therefore, I naturally assumed that he’d be au fait with R Kelly’s magnum opus, his 22 part work of insane genius. When he said he hadn’t seen it, I immediately knew what we would do for the next hour and a half...
So, after an hour and a half of intense love making, we watched...I’m obviously kidding. We got the beers in and queued up every episode. I’m not sure if any of you have ever been in the room when someone has a life changing experience, but let me tell you, it’s intense.
The thing about Trapped In The Closet is that you’re never sure whether you’re meant to take it seriously or not. Sometimes the characters, and there are a lot, come straight out of the gangster rap canon, as in the case of Twan, the pistol-toting joint-smoking hench-as-fuck thug who just got out of prison.
In the final Chapter of this series you see a snippet of Big Man’s strip show. He’s dressed like a cowboy. I’m not even kidding.
Other times, it seems like Kelly is deliberately lampooning the misogyny and excess that the genre deals with. Pimp Lucius, for example, is maybe the most stereotypical pimp you’ve ever seen, maybe just pipped to the post by the ex WWF wrestle The Godfather, who was flanked on his way to the ring by an army of hoes. (Mental note: Check collective noun for group of hoes, not sure it’s army). Lucius comes in around Chapter 19, confronted by a gospel choir attempting to convince him to stop his pimping ways, chanting: “You can do it Pimp Lucius!” However, Lucius leaves the church with his sidekick Bishop Craig while saying, with a very pronounced stutter, that he’ll never “s-s-s-s-stop p-p-p-pimping, cos p-p-p-pimpin’s fo’ life”.
The series boasts a varied and impressive cast too. Michael K. Williams, better known as Omar in The Wire, plays the bent cop Sgt. James, and Will Oldham, the alt-folk troubadour Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, plays Sgt. Platoon. R Kelly plays many of the parts himself, and of course does all the voices, including a bizarre Dixieland accent for Bridget, who is carrying the child of a midget stripper called Big Man. Why is he called Big Man, Sgt James asks? Whilst pointing at his crotch, Big Man replies: “I’m blessed”. In the final Chapter of this series you see a snippet of Big Man’s strip show. He’s dressed like a cowboy. I’m not even kidding.
And yet, in the midst of all this madness, R Kelly manages to navigate his audience successfully through a narrative that makes Inception look like Uncle Buck, and there’s something to be admired there. Not that R ever gets bogged down in exposition though, occasionally peppering the rhymes with nuggets of comic gold. My personal favourite being “You’re crazier than a fish with titties”.
So, I want you all to join me this year by saying fuck London 2012, fuck the Euros, fuck the Mayoral election and fuck the potential end of the world due to a series of catastrophic natural disasters. There is one and only one cultural event that’s worth getting excited about in 2012, and that’s the next 32 chapters of Trapped In The Closet. Midgets, gangsters, pimps, gossips, lesbians, strippers and sexually transmitted infections have been covered so far. You could hazard a guess as to what’s coming up, but it could literally be anything.
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