- R. Kelly's brother Carey rolls into Cleveland with a vengeance.
Carey Kelly only vaguely resembles his older brother Robert, known to millions of R&B fans as R. Kelly. Where Robert is thin and sinewy, Carey is built like a lumberjack, with a thick neck and hands that could palm bowling balls. Robert is famous for his bedroom eyes; Carey's glare is cold enough to lower the room temperature.
But the two brothers share the same high, dignified cheekbones. They have the same wide smiles -- though Robert flashes his more. In the right light, they could even be mistaken for one another.
"I played his double in 'Your Body's Calling Me,' I played his double in 'You Remind Me of My Jeep,'" Carey says, recalling two of his brother's hit videos. "I played his double on tour. When we were onstage, we had the same outfit on. That was our whole gimmick -- who's who?"
The gimmick would prove costly for Carey. In 2002, when a tape surfaced that seemed to show Robert having sex with an underage girl, some questioned whether it was actually Carey. Police brought him in for questioning. No charges were filed, but his face was plastered on Chicago's nightly news. His children endured playground taunts, for which he blames Robert's defense team.
"I feel like they took that and ran with it, and tried to raise reasonable doubt, not realizing that it was going to cost me and my kids unnecessary turmoil," he says. (Ed Genson, Robert's criminal attorney at the time of the dispute, has publicly denied Carey's charges. Kelly's camp did not return calls from Scene requesting comment.)
Since then, Carey has relocated to Cleveland to try to relaunch his hip-hop career under the name KillaKel. In the process, he's taking aim at both Robert and his oldest brother, Bruce, who works for Robert.
"You won't believe what I saw/My big brother doing drugs/And one's molesting kids and blaming me just because," he growls on one of the cuts from his forthcoming LP, The Gag Order. "I'm coming for your blood," he fumes. "You let the media drag our family name straight through the mud."
The song vents years of frustration Carey felt, as his brother's fortunes blossomed while his sagged. The brothers began playing music together as kids. In high school, Carey passed out Robert's demo while rapping in the hall. When Robert broke big in the early '90s, he took Carey on tour with the promise that his own star turn would come.
But a record contract never materialized. Meanwhile, Carey chafed at how his brother treated him on tour. "I received $250 a week," Carey says. "When he hired someone else when me and him fell out, they got $2,500 a week. I did six songs a night, and I got $250 a fuckin' week. He was making $60,000."
Carey claims that after they parted ways, Robert quashed potential record deals by calling labels and badmouthing him. He fell on hard times, losing his apartment and resorting to sleeping in abandoned buildings and his car.
News of his struggle eventually reached musician-producer Lovell Jones, a Cleveland native. A former backup singer for R. Kelly, Jones had befriended Carey on tour. He suggested that Carey move to Cleveland and now oversees Carey's career.
"Just being onstage every night and seeing him perform right next to his brother, holding his own with thousands of people screaming for him, I knew he had just as big a gift as R. Kelly had; he just didn't have the right avenues, because his brother was constantly trying to keep him under his feet," Jones says from his palatial home in Richmond Heights.
It's tempting to dismiss Carey's claims as profiteering. According to Jones, a 60 Minutes interview is scheduled for this month, and a made-for-TV movie on the Kelly family, The Kellys, is in the works. With Robert set to go on trial shortly, the timing of Carey's media blitz ensures that he will be viewed with suspicion.
But Carey claims he turned down numerous offers to spill family secrets to the tabloids. He says he's only speaking out now to clear his name.
"I have to tell my story, because now I have to straighten out a lot of things with my kids. They're still getting picked on," Carey says. "What do I have to pay in the end? What do my kids have to pay in the end, because you're trying to swindle your way out of something you're guilty of? I feel like the world needs to know my story."