Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)
|"Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)"|
|Single by R. Kelly featuring The Isley Brothers|
|from the album R. Kelly|
|Released||December 11, 1995|
|Format||CD single, cassette single|
|Genre||R&B, soul, slow jam, quiet storm|
|R. Kelly singles chronology|
"Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)" is an R&B song about infidelity, released as a single by R. Kelly and featuring The Isley Brothers, on his self-titled album, in 1995. The song was a hit, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and reaching number one on the R&B Singles Chart for seven weeks, making it Kelly's fifth single to do so on the latter.
The music video was directed by Hype Williams and R. Kelly. The song was a tongue-in-cheek song that had the narrator fooling around with another man's woman and telling the woman to keep their relationship as a closely guarded secret, hence the chorus "Keep it on the down low / Nobody has to know." While Kelly sings along, the "husband", Ronald Isley, sings in his trademark falsetto exclaiming "How could you go so low?"
The music video to the song was as popular as the song. It was one of Kelly's first self-directed videos, and was the first large-scale video Kelly had done. Introducing Isley as the character Mr. Frank Biggs, a mob boss who employs Kelly. Mr. Biggs sends for Kelly, telling him he's going on a business trip and wants Kelly to take care of his wife, Lila Heart (played by Garcelle Beauvais), explaining "You know Lila means everything to me", even leaving him money to take her out. Biggs tells Kelly "Take her out, take her shopping, Give her anything she wants, But you are never to touch her." Kelly replies "Hey man, you can trust me," in which Biggs responds, "don't fuck me, Kelly". Kelly plays out the lyrics to the song by having Mr. Biggs go out of town on business while Kelly and Lila go out on the town. At one point, Lila shows up at Kelly's home where they make love, despite Mr. Biggs telling Kelly to not getting physically involved with her.
Later that night, Biggs and his bodyguards break into the room. Kelly and Mr. Biggs's bodyguards fight; after injuring Kelly, the bodyguards turn on Lila. Dropping Kelly off in a desert location, bloodied and beaten, Mr. Biggs angrily gloats, "I did this to you!" and then, hitting him with a sledgehammer, leaves Kelly stranded out in the middle of nowhere. Later taken to a hospital where he rests in a wheelchair, Kelly discovers a badly beaten Lila in a nearby room and goes in to see her heavily sedated in intensive care. After Kelly tearfully tells her he loves her, Lila squeezes Kelly's hand, then succumbs to her injuries, ending the video.
This song, along with TLC's smash hit "Creep", 2Pac's "I Get Around" and Brian McKnight's "On The Down Low" incorporates the "down low" theme as it can be used to refer to men sleeping around with married women.
The success of the video shown on both MTV and BET helped send the song to number-four pop and number-one R&B, giving the Isley Brothers their first Top 40 pop record since 1980's "Don't Say Goodnight (It's Time For Love)", reviving the career of the group's front man Ronald Isley, who later used "Mr. Biggs" as his moniker, and was Kelly's third top 5 pop record. As Mr. Biggs, Isley would frequently duet with Kelly, the two most notable examples being in 1998 on Kelly Price's breakout hit Friend of Mine (though without any involvement with his brothers), and in 2001 on his group's song Contagious, which would serve as a sequel to this song.
In the final scene, music from the Dutch artist Frank Boeijen is used, from the song "Zeg me dat het niet zo is" . The title of the song could be translated as "Please, please tell me this is not happening", which fully alignes with the atmosphere of the movie scene.
The song is considered one of the most impactful songs in the 90's, the video has received positive reviews and has inspired different musicians. R&B singer The Weeknd call this the reason he's in this business of making music. Chris Brown and Trey Songz both sampled this song on "Songs on 12 Play" from Brown's sixth album X.
Pop culture references
The Isley Brothers and R. Kelly released a follow-up to "Down Low" in 2001 entitled "Contagious". In both the song and music video, Mr. Biggs returns home to find his new girlfriend (played by Chante Moore) having an affair with Kelly. Once again Mr. Biggs bodyguards come in the room to do some damage, but this time R. Kelly's bodyguards come in the room as well, and no harm is done.
- R. Kelly: Co-lead vocals, instruments, producer, writer, arranger, composer
- Ronald Isley: Co-lead and backing vocals
- Ernie Isley: Guitars, backing vocals
|New Zealand Singles Chart||20|
|UK Singles Chart||23|
|US Billboard Hot 100||4|
|US Billboard Hot R&B Singles||1|
|US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales||1|
|US Billboard Rhythmic Top 40||6|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,100,000|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- "Billboard Hot 100 - Artist History - R. Kelly". Retrieved 2015-10-27.
- "American single certifications – Kelly, R. (feat. R. Isley) – Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- "Best-Selling Records of 1996". Billboard (BPI Communications Inc.) 109 (3): 61. January 18, 1997. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 7, 2015.
- on YouTube