Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)

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"Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)"
Down Low (Nobody Has to Know) (R. Kelly) album cover.jpg
Single by R. Kelly featuring The Isley Brothers
from the album R. Kelly
Released December 11, 1995
Recorded 1995
Length 4:49
Label Jive
Songwriter(s) Robert Kelly
Producer(s) R. Kelly
R. Kelly singles chronology
"You Remind Me of Something"
"Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)"
"I Can't Sleep Baby (If I)"

"You Remind Me of Something"
"Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)"
"I Can't Sleep Baby (If I)"
The Isley Brothers singles chronology
"I'm So Proud"
(1994) I'm So Proud1994
"Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)"
(1995) Down Low (Nobody Has to Know)1995
"Let's Lay Together"
(1996) Let's Lay Together1996

"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.[1] 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?"

Music video[edit]

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 get 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 shouts, "Look at me! Look at me! I did this to you!" and then throws him down to the ground, leaving 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 dies from 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" [1]. 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 of the 1990s, the video has received positive reviews and has inspired different musicians. R&B singer The Weeknd called it the reason he's in the business of making music.[2] Chris Brown and Trey Songz both sampled this song on "Songs on 12 Play" from Brown's sixth album X.

In 2017. The Weeknd also decided to drop of the premiere of his latest new track on OVO Sound Radio after teasing the new drop this week on his social channels, which ended up being a cover of Down Low.[3]

Pop culture references[edit]

The song appeared in the eleventh episode of the first season of the sitcom Moesha -The Ditch Party and the 2003 film "Old School".

This video is loosely based on the 1946 noir classic Gilda, and the Kevin Costner film, Revenge.

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.



Chart (1996) Peak
New Zealand Singles Chart 20
UK Singles Chart 23
US Billboard Hot 100[4] 4
US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[5] 1
US Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales 1
US Billboard Rhythmic Top 40[6] 6


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United States (RIAA)[7] Platinum 1,100,000[8]

*sales figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


External links[edit]