There’s Just Something About R. Kelly: Can We Hate The Sin, And Not The Sinner?

October 2, 2012  |  

There is something about R. Kelly.

Sure, there is the whole sex tape that allegedly shows R. Kelly engaging in sex with an underage girl, thing, which landed him in Chicago court for 14 counts of child pornography, unlawfully videotaping the acts, and producing child pornography. Not to mention, the drama made him the subject of the infamous “Piss on You” skit by Dave Chapelle. And then there was the non-payment of taxes to the tune of $5.8 million dollars. Do you know how many schools districts and garbage men that could fund?

Not to mention his cheesy explanation (not that we needed one so why even bother) as to why he divorced his wife: The Notebook, the love story starring Ryan Gosling. Said Kellz in his new memoirs entitled Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me:

“As the film credits started to roll, I couldn’t move. I burst into tears. People walking past me patted me on the back, trying to console me. ‘The Notebook’ was beautiful, and I was crying because its hero and heroine had died together,” the 45-year-old writes in the memoir. “But I was also crying because I remembered a Valentine’s Day — when a helicopter dropped a rainfall of roses — that had come and gone … My marriage had died. And there was nothing I could do to bring it back.”

Buahahahaha…. Somebody needs to snatch Kellz’s Netflix account before he gets “inspired” by any more touching romances. Also, I’m sure his ex-wife, who has claimed domestic violence and adultery during their marriage might have something different to say about why they parted, and about his interpretation of The Notebook.  So you see, there are plenty of reasons to dislike R. Kelly. Even a bunch of dudes calling themselves, Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women, have started a petition to rid and protect the community of R. Kelly once and for all.

However, there is something about R. Kelly that keeps him on top. What could that thing be? Oh yeah, he makes great music.

And I mean really damn good music. For instance, last week, I saw R. Kelly’s new video for “Feelin’ Single” for the first time and I have to say that the song and the video are both off the chain. The song is just straight-up soul. Who else but Kellz could make a song about cheating on his cheating girlfriend sound so damn smooth? It’s got that old-school Michael Jackson “Rock with You” vibe to it, where you just want to slide back in your rolling chair from the desk and get up and do a two-step around the office. But you can’t, because you are at work. So instead you head bop and hum it while you are waiting at the Xerox machine for your copies. Oh yeah, I’ve been there.  And did I mention that there is a very hot salute to Broadway in the middle of the video? *Squeal* I thought I was the only one who occasionally sings R&B and even hip-hop songs using a Broadway voice? Oh, you say I am? Okay I can live with that.

At any rate, R. Kelly has a strange way of making the most harden anti-Kellz critic into fans again. I know, I have gone off once or twice, or a few times, about the black communities undying support of him – even applauding after his acquittal of those child pornography charges. But best believe songs like “Happy People,” “Step In the Name Of Love” and a lot of his older stuff still gets regular rotation on my mp3 player (for those who don’t know: an mp3 player is for those who can’t afford the cost or the restrictive nature of an iPod). How is that possible?

Well, it was Mohandas Gandhi who once wrote in his autobiography that is was our duty to, “hate the sin and not the sinner.” It is coincidental that this message comes from him, considering that Gandhi, most revered for his non-violence approach to civil rights and freedom across the world, was also really bigoted to people of darker skin. But those character flaws are not how we choose to remember our heroes and artistic geniuses. Instead, we immortalized Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, James Brown and yes, R. Kelly too, even as their personal misgivings at times overshadowed their talent. Some of us even go as far as to make excuses for their transgressions.  How many times have we heard someone say, “Well, yeah the girl was too young, but you can’t blame R. Kelly for that. I mean, where were her parents? Surely this girl is no amateur.”

In her book Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot, Pearl Cleage speaks candidly about her inability to forgive Mile Davis, who had allegedly beat up Cicely Tyson among other women.  She writes, “So the question is: How can they hit us and still be our heroes? And the question is: How can they hit us and still be our leaders? Our husbands? Our Lovers? Our geniuses? Our friends? And the answer is…they can’t. Can They?”

Truth is that they can’t. No matter how well they dance or sing or rap or can blow into a trumpet. And it is hard to acknowledge one aspect of someone without it bleeding into the way you feel about them in their totality. While I’m not advocating we hate them and burn their records like Cleage suggest we do, we should be aware that the love for some of our favorites is complex. And more importantly, be able to say, yes, R. Kelly is very talented and on the verge of musical genius–but he is sort of a douchebag too.

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