It took me a while, but I recently stopped listening to R. Kelly.
It wasn’t easy at all. As I’ve stated numerous times, I’m from the South Suburbs of Chicago and R. Kelly’s music was always a mainstay on the radio, in our home, and even at school. The man literally lived 10 minutes away from my family in Olympia Fields for years.
And then his music was just that good. There really is an R. Kelly song for every mood. Feeling jubilant? Step to “Happy People.” Relationship on the decline? Rant to “When a Woman’s Fed Up.” Need some inspiration? Of course, there’s always “I Believe I Can Fly.” Feeling freaky? Take your pick.
And that’s where things get uncomfortable.
I gave up on the classic jams of R. Kelly, because after years of turning a blind eye to allegations, I was forwarded the news stories and police reports from the Village Voice feature a while back. I looked over everything, things that spanned the ’90s and early ’00s, and could barely hold down my lunch. I knew people who went to his alma mater, Kenwood Academy in Chicago, and said he would lurk around talking to the young girls, and I’d also had friends who said they saw him at local malls and he was flirtatious. I thought nothing of it during that time.
But after reading those reports, I couldn’t ignore what I had been hearing and seeing over the years, and I could no longer feel comfortable supporting or even just listening to his music due to the allegations.
Allegations R. Kelly addressed directly in an interview with New York Magazine recently.
While promoting his new album, Buffet, the singer was asked whether or not he has a sexual attraction to underage girls:
“That’s a rumor that comes from the Earth, like all rumors,” he says, sounding almost bored.
So it’s not true?
“No. It’s not true. I love women, period. If I wasn’t a celebrity, people wouldn’t be saying these things about me.”
How do you explain people close to you saying that you have a problem?
“I don’t know those people you’re talking about.”
I clarify: his brother, his ex-publicist, his former friend and longtime personal assistant.
“All those people have been fired by me. If you’re going to ask me these questions, you have to make sense out of it. It wasn’t until after they got fired that they said these things. Go figure. I got one life, and I don’t want to spend it talking about negativity. I’ve moved on. Maybe you haven’t.”
And when asked if there were any sexual compulsions he could admit to struggling with, Kelly claimed young girls were not his issue.
“I only have a problem with haters.”
This Q&A was interesting. But what stood out to me most were the words of a commenter who said that Kelly is no different from any other entertainer.
“meh. if you stopped supporting every entertainer or celebrity who rapes, abuses, or commits crimes. you wouldn’t really have very many entertainers or celebrities left.
i mean… where’s this article on Woody Allen? any number of pro athletes? hell… even harvy weinstein has a reputation for f-cking young starlets as a gatekeeper to celebrity.
I don’t really know R Kelly’s music. but. pretty sure you can just look the other way if you’re into. just like people do for white entertainers.”
And for a minute there, I started to feel confused. Conflicted is a better word.
That commenter had a point. There are plenty of athletes, entertainers and celebrities in general who’ve done horrid things, and yet many of us continue to be entertained by them in one way or another, and we don’t turn the TV off or the radio down when they appear. For example, despite being flabbergasted at photos of a beaten and bruised Rihanna after she was battered by Chris Brown post a pre-Grammy celebration in 2009, six years later, I still listen to Brown’s music. I still continue to root for him to get his life together because I see the talent.
I stood by Michael Jackson against rumors until the day he died and still jam out to all his albums like they just came out. Off The Wall is a personal favorite.
I watch old and new Woody Allen movies from time to time, and even some Roman Polanski films. And as I can recall sitting back during an 8-hour plane ride to Greece, I thought nothing of Allen’s marriage to his adopted daughter while watching Blue Jasmine.
A lot of the athletes I see on television are being accused of something or currently battling a case in between games.
And don’t get me started on Bill Cosby…
I don’t go out of my way to support anyone with a shoddy past, but it’s true that at times, what they’ve done in their personal life sometimes takes a backseat when I’m focused on their work.
But what makes R. Kelly different from all these people is the fact that it’s his work that makes me think of his personal life automatically. He’s overtly sexual, and when you’re being accused of having sex with minors, that makes things incredibly uncomfortable. His last album was titled Black Panties for God’s sake! How can I listen to “The Greatest Sex,” “Bump N’Grind,” “Every Position,” “R&B Thug,” “Freak Dat Body,” and some sh*t like “I Like The Crotch On You” and not immediately feel disgusting? Especially when he said in “She’s Got That Vibe,” “Little, cute Aaliyah’s got it”?
And yet, I won’t judge those who can do so. Because as I previously stated, there are some people I find myself grooving to and whose projects I view despite knowing their shady past, and sometimes, present.
But R. Kelly has to go from my discography. Not because he’s not a musical genius. But rather, because by continuing to be a hypersexual being when it comes to the music he shares with the world while remaining mum about that sex tape, that marriage to Aaliyah, and those vivid claims of statutory rape, he’s profiting off of someone else’s pain and laughing in our faces. It’s sick.