Despite decades of allegations of sexual abuse levied against superstar, R. Kelly, the music world continues to celebrate the controversial singer and his music.
In the time of #MeToo, it’s particularly troubling that some of music’s biggest names have no problem endorsing his brand of baby-making music, despite the deeply disturbing mental pictures painted by his victims over the years.
Even if some folks choose to cling to the fact that his transgressions haven’t been proven in a court of law, some of his offenses just can’t be ignored.
A pattern of abuse
R. Kelly’s 1994 marriage to the late Aaliyah when she was just 15-years-old should be proof enough that he is a documented sexual predator.
The two reportedly met when Aaliyah was only 12 years old. He went on to produce her debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number,” and reportedly married her using a falsified marriage certificate that claimed she was 18. Illinois law states the age of consent is 17; R. kelly was 27 at the time.
And who can forget the deeply disturbing 2002 video of him urinating in a young girl’s mouth while demanding she call him “Daddy”?
In 2002, R. Kelly was indicted on multiple counts of child pornography and faced up to 15 years in prison before he was acquitted in 2008. He denied it was him on the tape despite several jurors confirming they believed it was him.
In 2006, he was sued for $10 million by singer, Tiffany Hawkins, who claimed she “suffered personal injuries and severe emotional harm” because she started having sex with him at 15 and he encouraged her to have group sex with other underage girls. He has reportedly settled two other lawsuits with women who accused him of having sex with them when they were under 18.
Just last year, Kittie Jones detailed her horrendous experience with the singer that included physical, emotional, and mental abuse to Rolling Stone, bringing his alleged depravity back to the forefront of fans’ minds, but Kelly’s music continues to sell.
Even with numerous sexual assault allegations swirling around him for years, R. Kelly has released several successful albums since the first accusations made headlines. Fans continue to support his projects and buy tickets for his concerts.
R. Kelly’s celebrity fans continue to support him as well with collaborations and tour appearances.
A few weeks back, Xscape brought Kelly up onstage for a performance at their tour-closing concert in Los Angeles as they celebrated his 51st birthday.
R. Kelly continues to make music with the industry’s most influential stars including Jennifer Hudson, Keri Hilson, Mary J. Blige, Nas and Pharrell, and put on sexually charged performances on huge stages like he did with Lady Gaga at the 2013 American Music Awards. And he still manages to get booked for popular television shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
According to Anthony Hamilton, who recorded a Legends remix to Chris Brown’s “Back To Sleep” with R. Kelly and Tank in 2016, the issue of whether or not to make music with R. Kelly isn’t so simple.
“He’s still a great songwriter. You kind of forget those things after a while,” he told TheGrio in an exclusive interview.
“I think now, it’s lingering with people because stuff has happened over and over again. I just pray that he gets better. If he has a problem, I hope he gets the help and support he needs.”
Even though Hamilton has worked with R. Kelly and continues to consider him a powerful force in music, he’s not necessarily denying the sexual assault allegations are true.
“There are people who have really been affected by that and there are speculations and there’s truth. I don’t really know all the truth. I just know, whatever it is, everybody needs to come together and find a way to make it better and whoever needs help get help,” he continued. “Who am I? I ain’t God. I ain’t perfect.”
One would think that after the fall of entertainment legends like Bill Cosby, and the growing outrage over allegations of rape against mogul Russell Simmons, no icon would be safe from public and eventually legal prosecution.
Still, R. Kelly’s popularity persists.
With the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements gaining momentum in the fight against sexual assault, we hope that celebrities won’t continue to turn a blind eye to R. Kelly’s long history of abusing Black women.
Fortunately, there are some women who are hell-bent on fighting back and their campaign to wipe R. Kelly’s music from fans playlists is picking up steam.
In 2017, Oronike Odeleye, an Atlanta-based managing director of the Creative Currents Artist Collaborative, started a petition to get R. Kelly’s music off of Atlanta airwaves.
“I have been hearing about R. Kelly’s sexual abuse of young black women since I was in my teens,” said Odeleye in an exclusive interview with theGrio. “Every few years more women come out with their stories. More images and videos surface. More black girls are scarred for life just as they are coming into their womanhood and sexuality.
“There is a pariah in our community that we all know about, yet we all have continued to stand by and do nothing. We continue to dance to his music in the club, play it at our family reunions, celebrate to it at our weddings.”
Odeleye’s petition caught the eye of Kenyette Barnes, a seasoned social justice activist who is also a survivor of child pornography. The two met for coffee and have been sisters in the fight ever since. Odeleye credits Barnes with bringing structure to the campaign and creating the #MuteRKelly hashtag and so far, eight of Kelly’s shows have been canceled as a result.
“There have been five direct actions in other cities, and eight concerts canceled since the beginning of this campaign—Baton Rogue, New Orleans, Dallas, Memphis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Hampton Roads,” notes Barnes.
“We are demanding that our elected officials and leaders take a stance against the use of tax-payer funded venues and the revenue generated by his concerts. Municipalities should not be OK with making money and using taxpayer venues to host what is essentially a sexual predator.”
Despite the efforts of these women, and countless others who have rejected R. Kelly’s offerings since news of his sexual assaults against black girls and women made headlines, others continue to support his songs and his brand. As long as celebrities continue to co-sign, they are sending a message that their fans’ well-being doesn’t matter as much as making money.