"I've established myself as an artist and producer," Kelly said. "So we thought it was time to lend my name to other people. . . . There will be a lot of artists on the label, but up next is the Eddie Murphy-Martin Lawrence soundtrack ["Life"]. We're already five songs into that."
Kelly maintains a reserved but confident demeanor. The only thing that can match the intensity of his legendary marathon recording sessions is the passion he brings to the basketball court.
Kelly, who is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, plays three or four times a week at Hoops. In the summer of 1997 he was a reserve guard for the Atlantic City Seagulls in the minor league United States Basketball League. As part of Kelly's contract, he was allowed to miss games or practices to tend to his singing career.
"It wasn't a gimmick," said Ken Gross, the Seagulls owner who signed Kelly. "He's a ballplayer. He can play."
Every year around Labor Day, Kelly hosts a benefit celebrity basketball game in Chicago, inviting the likes of Snoop Dogg, Da Brat and Xscape.