Last night’s staff chat has changed me so positively within a 24-hour time frame that it is crazy to even contemplate my former self. We discussed our musical guilty pleasures and the big winner as a conversational topic was Chapter 1 of R. Kelly’s strange and absurd musical saga Trapped In the Closet. I had never seen past Chapter 1 of the video series and I decided to watch all of it. I was absolutely enchanted by the surreal entertainment that the saga provides. It opened up a world of possibilities, and now I don’t know if I will even be able to conduct my everyday business without wanting R. Kelly to passionately narrate my life with his sultry croons. I guess the good news is that I can just imagine it. Just know, as events unfold in my life, R. Kelly will be in my head. Things like, “And then he told a student they should apply to APPPPP STTTTAAAATEEE (I work as a college adviser)” will be ringing around my mind for quite a while.
The saga is melodramatic, hilarious, absurd, self-aware, completely not self-aware, and absolutely surreal. I would recommend a full view of all the initial 22 chapters to any person. I still am not quite sure what R. Kelly was/is going for, but I guess some of the most impactful art is stuff that leaves you completely confused. Either way, I had a smile on my face the entire time watching. The question really is... was that smile intentionally given or not?
There are some amazing and indelible characters on display throughout the video series. R. Kelly shows off his acting chops by playing like 80 characters (again, not sure if his efforts are earnest or not), Michael K. Williams (OMAR from the Wire!) makes an appearance, and a wondrous blue pimp-suit wearing midget is a major player in the drama. Due to the abundance of beautiful, nuanced, and fully-realized characters at the viewers disposal, I figured I would make rank the best characters in the epic R&B opera series.
Trapped In the Closet Character Power Rankings Chapters 1-22
10 - Pastor Rufus’s Dude Bae (AKA Chuck)
Although Pastor’s Dude Bae (AKA Chuck) may feature mainly on the periphery throughout the drama, his story becomes central to the plot’s eventual climax. He is the reason for the 1st out of 182 “OH SHIT” moments in the saga and that counts for quite a bit. A tone-setter in the truest sense. His sassy knife-wielding capabilities are so full of brio and knife swag you can’t help but root for the dude (found in Chapter 12, 0:35-0:38). If the knife swag ain’t enough, his collar is perma-popped. Swag out on ‘em Chuck. Also, his other feasible title if Pastor Rufus’s Dude Bae is too long for you is the Creepin’ Deacon. Shouts.
9 - Sylvester
Yes, the main character features pretty early on the top ten list… Just let me explain. Sylvester is a pimp no doubt. The cooler head whose cigar game is the truest and suit game is second only to a character who will feature later in the list, but he is like the bread in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A crucial and central figure, but not the most memorable one. He does have his moments, like when he doesn’t shoot two lesbians that just kissed because he, “likes that kinda shit” (found in Chapter 17, 0:20-0:25), or his ability to succinctly sum up a crazy night (found in Chapter 6, 0:59-1:14), but you get the sense he is a passenger on a crazy ride.
8 - Sylvester’s Gun
A gun would normally count as a prop in a drama, but Trapped In the Closet isn’t your normal Oedipus Rex-type shit. The gun is so prominently featured that it develops its own character by the end. It is smooth, stoic, uncompromising, and so very outgoing. It just can’t help but enter the room. This bad boy is a total ENFJ on the Myers-Briggs. Willing to be the life of the party, but also willing to mete out swift, cold justice.
7 - Roxanne
Again, the manner in which a character wields a weapon really influences the place on the power rankings. Roxanne’s weapon of choice? A skillet of course! Whether threatening to pummel Twon to death (found in Chapter 15, 0:18-0:30), snitching, showing off the merits of neck tats, or sticking her tongue in another woman’s mouth to defuse a tough situation, she is just so full of charming humanity and grace. She also calls Twon a “Shrek-looking ass motherfucker” which is just perfect.
6 - Spirit of Sylvester
There are two Sylvesters in this incredible drama. The character whose life is portrayed in the story and the one who is omniscient and omnipresent (and mostly resides in closets). I prefer the second, whom I will call “Spirit of Sylvester” because he is always good for donning the most pimptastic white suit you could ever see, echoes of phones ringing, closet dwelling, and smoking a fat cigar. He watches all the crazy stuff going on around him with complete bemusement. His features on Chapter 11 and 12 are true star-making turns, specifically the end of Chapter 11 (3:42-4:13). His delivery on “OOOHHHH, THE MIDGET FAINTS AGAIN” brings a big fat tear to my eye every time I hear it.
5 - Twon
First off I should say, I am pretty sure it is ‘Toine, but I prefer this spelling because it is like a three-year-old trying to pronounce the movie that Daft Punk soundtracked. But back to Twon… Sweet, sweet Twon. Twon is like that friend you have that is an absolute idiot… Like, legitimately unintelligent, but you keep him around because he is ride or die. Ok, basically I guess what I am getting at is Twon is your dog. He is exuberant, full of life, always willing to pop a cap in someone’s ass, smokes weed, and has Messianic capabilities with the whole resurrection thing (Chapters 6 and 7). What more could you want out of a canine? Chapter 15 is where he really takes flight as a character though. He gets threatened with a skillet, rationalizes getting pulled over with drugs in his car by saying “Maaaan, I was drunk”, and tells a girl, “I’m Rick James bitch.” If that wasn’t enough, his hat game is always on point. Sylvester says that he is, “crazier than a fish with titties.” That alone bumps him up to number five.
4 - Randolph
The old curmudgeon is not a novel concept; Scrooges come a dime a dozen. But Randolph is different. From first introduction, with the assflap from his pajamas billowing ever so slightly, you immediately know this guy is a unique and triumphant force. He is full of flaws (and gas) but triumphs above them with the same ease that his eyebrows triumph over any other facial feature he possesses. He says “yeah” better than anyone (found in Chapter 13, 2:03-2:10), wishes pigeon shit on his wife’s face, and takes nips of gin in church (found in Chapter 20, 2:00-2:15). He is an OG in every sense, full of life and narcolepsy (found in Chapter 20, 4:29-4:33). He is the glue that holds the narrative together. God (and gin) bless him for it.
3 - Bridget
Only Jim Dale of the Harry Potter audiobooks can rival R. Kelly with his ability to make a character come to life so effectively through his own voice. If you have ever wondered what R. Kelly would sound like as a Southern white woman (which, of course you have) look no further (found in all Chapter 8… A MUST WATCH). Bridget only appears on four of the chapters but becomes utterly integral to the story. She is clearly able to convey more human emotion than I think I could ever feel. Her life ain’t easy. She has terrible secrets, the world around her gets blue when she is anxious, she has a baby in her stomach, and a vicious allergy to cherries. You connect with her through all of her struggles, primarily because R. Kelly is just so damn good at voice acting.
2 - Big Man the Midget Stripper
The character is often made less human by the surprise of a midget playing such a major role in the drama, but this cupboard-fitting tour de force should not be reduced to his mere verticality. What a character! He has asthma,loose bowels, immaculate style, faints preeeety easily, and oh yeah…. has a huge schlong. His, “I’m the baby daddy?” face is priceless (found in Chapter 11, 3:33-3:43). He is a perfect distillation of what makes Trapped In the Closet so endlessly compelling. Absurd, hilarious, overdramatic, and real as fuck. Such a small man plays such a huge role.
1 - Pimp Lucius
Pimp Lucius may only exist in Chapter 18 and 19 of Trapped In the Closet, but I like to think he exists in all of us (WATCH CHAPTER 19). We all have a Lucius. You know, that part of your soul that just can’t stop pimpin’, just can’t stop wearing highlighter yellow fedoras, or wearing a goatee all too stylistically. He is so admirable to overcome his stutter and make something of himself. I’m just saying... Colin Firth got all sorts of love for The King’s Speech but R. Kelly’s rendition of Pimp Lucius can’t get some love? We here at Earhole respect your game Pimp Lucius. Your advice will not be forgotten. “I ain’t gon’ ever stop pimpin’. Pimpin’s for life.”