This past weekend R. Kelly’s Chocolate Factory turned ten years old. Although the entire record was a gift from R&B heaven, there would be one song that stood out from the rest: “Ignition (Remix).”
To celebrate one of the best songs ever made, the album it came from, and the man who gave it to us, I asked several people to write thank you letters to R. Kelly for creating “Ignition (Remix).” Each one tells a different story but they all serve the same purpose: A reminder of why “Ignition (Remix)” is regarded as a classic, and how a song about fogging up windows and popping Cristal, continues to bring people together.
Hot and fresh out the kitchen,
I just wanted to thank you for helping. It was probably your intention when you made the remix to “Ignition,” and you probably already know, but I just wanted to make sure you really knew. I mean, what you basically did was create something that brings together people of every race, age and sex, to dance stupidly and not feel shitty about themselves. No matter the circumstance. I think my introduction to “Ignition (Remix)” was at school dances. I guess I was like 12 years old and regardless of there being no concept of after-parties or “fogging windows up” for me yet, it made sense. I’m 22 years old now and I still try to play the song from people’s iPods or computers when I go out. Because it does now exactly what it did then: it helps. And as a musician I still don’t know how to make a song that appeals to everyone. But apparently it has something to do with a repetitive drip-drop synth melody, some hand-claps and singing about low-key wanting to have sex in a car.
Thank you for giving me 10 years of music to step to! As a Chicago native, I can confidently say that I knew a large chunk of your discography way before I was old enough to drive, or even understand the meaning behind your double entendres about “taking [your] key and sticking it in the ignition.” I first heard “Ignition (Remix)” when I was 12 but my best memory of the song was the summer after I graduated college. I was in a tiny New Orleans dive bar called The Saint and the DJ decided to play an R. Kelly mini marathon. I might have been surrounded by hipsters but at that moment I felt like I was in a south side of Chicago supper club with fellow steppers. As we drank PBR and sung lyrics about popping bottles of Cristal we were creating a moment that will always be cemented in my brain. Despite our different backgrounds “Ignition (Remix)” was that perfect slow jam that impacted all of us (and apparently even Joseph Gordon-Levitt). I associated the song with my uncle who wore red suits with matching gators. Other people might have associated the song with middle school dances. “Ignition (Remix)” is one of those carefree songs that makes it okay to say, “So baby gimme that toot toot / Lemme give you that beep beep.” Ten years later and I still don’t know what that means exactly, but that’s why it is so amazing. Sometimes you need to celebrate everything the weekend represents and you made the perfect soundtrack for it.
Dear Mr. Pied Piper of R&B,
Without you the world would not have an early millennial anthem dedicated to physical joy, and the pure thrill it brings. My greatest “Ignition (Remix)” happened last year at a small apartment get together in Dallas. Celebrating the homecoming of Amanda, a new friend, I uncomfortably sat with my good friend Travis, as a Spotify playlist played “bearded-indie-heartbroken-crooner music.” When Travis and I noticed Amanda wasn’t enjoying the music we made an executive decision to put on “Ignition (Remix).” The other members of the party–a pretty conservative bunch–did not know what to do when Travis stood up and began grinding. Amanda followed in suit and began to recite the lyrics from the song. Once Amanda stood up another girl, annoyed by our actions, voiced her disapproval. “I hate when white people dance to black music.” Immediately everyone in the room looked towards me. In response I simply raised the volume of the song and had everyone join in the festivities. “Little Miss Offensive” left shortly after that but we did not care: we were “Thuggin’ it out.” “Ignition (Remix)” speaks to everyone. It’s not one race’s song — it’s everybody’s song. We’ve all fogged windows up and have proudly said, “So what I’m drunk,” at least once in our lives. Here’s to toot-tooting and beep-beeping for years to come.
My mom is going to be terribly upset with me if/when she reads this, but my most memorable experience with “Ignition (Remix)” occurred in the basement of the Craige dormitory at the University of North Carolina at chapel Hill. My suitemates and I were playing a game called Thumper and listening to your song on repeat. This is how you play Thumper: Everybody sits in a circle while thumping on their knees. Everyone has a preestablished hand signal. When it’s your turn you take a break from thumping on your knees and do your hand signal, then point to another person. They then have to do your hand signal and then their hand signal, and then point to another person in the circle. It goes on and on like a Mortal Kombat combo until somebody fucks up, and then they have to drink. Anyways, in between Thumper rounds we were singing along to your song, and I changed the lyrics of the song to “It’s the freakin’ Wednesday night and I’m here to have me some…” And right as I was about to say the word “fun,” our R.A. burst into the room and yelled at us for drinking. This song is culturally significant and/or important, because this experience was not specifically germane to me.
Keep on tootin’ Kellz,
Hi Mr. Kelly,
Now usually I do not do this but I am going to give you the real talk. (See what I did there?) My most memorable experience of listening to “Ignition (Remix)” actually happened with my grandma. I was 11 and she had recently bought Chocolate Factory after hearing about it from her friends. Prior to Factory I solely knew you as the “I believe I can fly” man. You were an inspiration: I would listen to your song on repeat, your angelic voice Michael Jordan’s saving grace as he balled so hard on extraterrestrial beings. And then I heard “Ignition (Remix).” It was a strange feeling, your subtle sexual innuendos zooming past me as my grandmother said, “In time boy you will come to understand what he means.” Fast forward to now and I’ve had women run their hands through my ‘fro, as well as had many memories dedicated to late night debauchery. One can look at “Ignition (Remix)” as a recipe for having the best weekend ever. But the song’s timelessness is due to the fact that it is a nearly perfect song. It has quotables for days, one of the best uses of onomatopoeia ever and it brings people together. (Plus isn’t everyone’s goal to pop Cristal at least once in their life? No? Maybe? Ok.) Thanks Robert, for creating a song that transcends most music, and leaves listeners under an enchanting R&B spell for three great fucking minutes.
Cheers Mr. R&B Pied Piper,
MY ESTEEMED NIGGA ROBERT,
YO MY MAN WAS DJING SOME SPOT AND HALFWAY THRU THE NIGHT HE DROPS THE IGNITION REMIX, MUTHAFUCKAS GO CRAZY, COUPLE JOINTS LATER HE TELLS ME TO HOLD IT DOWN FOR HIM AND WHEN HE LEAVES A DRUNK ASS WHITE DUDE THAT LOOKED LIKE MARK ZUCKERBERG IF HE WENT INTO FINANCE WILD SLOPPY DRUNK COMES UP TO ME LIKE “PLAY REMIX TO IGNITION AGAIN BRO” NIGGA SAID “REMIX TO IGNITION” ALL SING SONGY & SHIT NIGGA WAS SMACKED. I TELL HOMIE I WILL IF HE BUYS ME A BOTTLE OF CHAMPAGNE. I AINT THINK DUDE WAS GONNA DO IT BUT HE DID MY MAN COMES BACK I TELL HIM PLAY THE SHIT AT SOME POINT. I SIT AT THE TABLE WITH DUDE NOT SAYIN A WORD GUZZLING CHAMPAGNE TALKIN TO A ART SCHOOL LOOKING BLONDE SHORTY WITH TREMENDOUS CHEEKS. SONG DROPS I POUR CHAMPAGNE IN HER MOUTH WHITE DUDE GOES HAMBOYANT HIFIVING NIGGAS LIKE HE JUST LAUNCHED A SPACE SHUTTLE AND THAT SET OFF THAT EVENING IN EARNEST MY NIGGA. I GOTTA THANK YOU FOR THAT KELLZ CUZ SHORTY LET ME HIT THE PEANUT BUTTER. CULTURALLY THAT WAS AN ILL SONG NAHMEAN KELLZ? YOU A MASTER SONGCRAFTER YOU FEEL ME CUZ YOU DON’T WRITE THE SHIT YOU CRAFT IT. THIS SONG WAS A MILESTONE CULTURALLY CUZ YOU EXPLAINED STEP BY STEP EXACTLY HOW TO GET LAID AND PAINTED A PICTURE OF HOOD OPULENCE THAT ONLY FEW CAN DO SO PROLIFICALLY LIKE YOU MY NIGGA ROBERT. YOU CROONING (PAUSE) “WE JUST THUGGIN IT OUT” WAS THE PRECURSOR TO DUDES LIKE THE DREAM SINGIN “FUCK, THAT NIGGA” ALL HARMONIOUSLY LIKE HE WASNT DROPPIN F BOMBS. #KNOWLEDGE
THE KID MERO
My dude Kelly,
Have you looked at Youtube comments for “Ignition (Remix)” recently? I’ll give you a sample: “ME GUSTA! TOOT TOOT BEAT BEAT,” “OMG Kells you king,” “Not normally my kind of music but I can happily listen,” “Normally wouldn’t touch this muck but R. Kelly might be this century’s most misunderstood artist” and “Ich liebe diesen song:).” You influence people across the world, including myself. I first heard “Ignition (Remix)” in my mom’s car in 2003. She said you were a creep but I did not listen, unaware that your song had already taken refuge in my head for years to come. Several Trapped in the Closet drinking games later I had downloaded every one of your albums. That’s a lot of sexy freaking songs. Like every other genius who ever lived and every poet who has ever made me cry, you just know. You know planet Earth is a sex planet, the planet of infinite orgasm. You are here to remind us of this truth, most persuasively in Ignition (Remix).
Thanks for the inspiration,
Dear R. Kelly,
My name is Caitlin White and when I first heard the “Ignition (Remix)” it was the summer of 2009. I was a junior in college and I had just broken up with my first love so things were a little bleak. In a desperate effort to cheer up my poor weary soul I had started to wander into the genre of hip-hop/rap. It seemed like one of the few things that could actually get me to stop crying for any length of time. In these travels of–yes, highly illegal file downloading–I found your song and fell head over heels for it. Never has there been a track better suited to forgetting the dark and dreary present. Never has there been a song that better encompasses the spectacular feeling of capital P “Partying.” Those nights when you’re surrounded by friends, every activity seems fun, and you know that someone is taking you home. During a part of my life when my main activities were driving to a shitty internship at Target, eating nachos at home alone and watching Keeping up with the Kardashians this song was a bright spot in my life. Thank you R. Kelly for sharing your passion for partying in such a warm and welcoming way, that even a hip-hop outsider could find joy and seek comfort in your music.
Most songs–hits rather–come out and dominate the radio, the clubs, the cars you hear driving by. “Ignition (Remix)” did all that but there’s a shelf life to hits. They get played out. After a couple of months you just don’t get that crazy to “Hey Ya!” anymore. “Flashing Lights” isn’t as mind-blowing as that first 100 listens. And I’m not knocking those songs, those songs did it waaaaay big, but “Ignition (Remix)” had that staying power. To this day as soon as you hear, “Now usually I don’t do this, but…” the party jumps to the next level. Now usually I don’t dance but when this song came on at my wedding in 2011, eight years after Chocolate Factory dropped, I grabbed my new wife and hit that dance floor with a purpose. Now, it was ugly, but I was like, “So what I’m drunk. It’s my freakin’ wedding, baby, I’m about to have me some fun.” Thank you for that memory.
PS. Had to play “Step in the Name of Love” and “Dream Girl” during cocktail hour.
The summer after my sophomore year of college, brimming with good intentions, I went to a rural part of China’s Hunan province to volunteer at a supplemental school program/summer camp operated by an American nonprofit. The way it worked was that one American volunteer and two Chinese volunteers teamed up to teach each class, with the Chinese teachers handling most topics and the American ones tackling English and a special free learning/PE/performance preparation class. The performance in question was for a final show in front of all the other class sections and the students’ parents at the end of the session. Since I was terrible at teaching English (much credit is due to those Chinese 10-year-olds for basically tackling a U.S. high school English class), I refocused my efforts on the other class — specifically on choreography. Yes, I thought it seemed appropriate for the group’s final performance to be a dance set to a self-curated medley of Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat,” Juelz Santana’s “Whistle Song” and, of course, your “Ignition (Remix).” So I put together the moves. Every “beep beep” got a honking gesture; the “fellas to my left, honeys on my right” line sparked a nice line-up-by-gender move (very much welcome among shy Chinese preadolescents); many hours were devoted to figuring out a move that would properly connote “Cristal poppin in the stretch Navigator.” I always liked that song, but that’s the true story of how I finally learned all the lyrics. The performance, needless to say, stole the show and, I think, true to your intentions, broke down cultural differences, bridged international boundaries and taught our across-the-pond neighbors just where to find the after-after-party.
Steppin’ in the name of love forever,