Allegations of abuse. Videotapes. Court documents. Testimony. Settlements. Children.
As Sound of the City, Rocks Off's sister blog at New York's Village Voice, reported earlier this week, if we look back on the timeline of R. Kelly's life, littered among the misogynistic, sexually charged songs -- "I Like the Crotch on You," for example -- it's incredibly difficult to ignore the glaring warning signs. They're everywhere.
From the very first reports of Kelly's marriage to a then-underage Aaliyah in 1994, whom he wed with the help of a forged birth certificate, someone should have spoken out about how potentially dangerous this man may be. He was 27. She was only 15. He was a man; she was a child.
When he was sued by Tiffany Hawkins in 1996, with Hawkins alleging that she had a sexual relationship with Kelly that began when she was 15 -- only a freshman in high school -- and allegedly involved multiple underage threesomes with Hawkins's friends, someone should have spoken out about the dangers of promoting this man's fame. Kelly settled the lawsuit.
In '99, when Kelly's protégé and touring partner, Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards, relayed stories of a tour where the backstage area was filled with underage girls, there should have been some sort of pushback against him.
When R. Kelly's well-established manager, Barry Hankerson, resigned his position and sent a letter to Kelly's attorney stating that "he believes Kelly needs psychiatric help for his compulsion to pursue underage girls," the world should have been up in arms about this man's continued success.
in 2001, when the first videotape surfaced and the Tracy Sampson lawsuit followed on its heels, there should have been an outright boycott of Kelly's music. Tracy Sampson was 17. Kelly settled the lawsuit.
When a second tape surfaced only a year later, a tape in which R. Kelly was allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old, during which he urinates in the child's mouth, someone should have shut this man's career down.
When Patrice Jones sued the singer in 2002, and Kelly again settled the lawsuit, there was no outrage.
And when Kelly was finally indicted on child-pornography charges, with another 12 counts to follow once a camera was recovered during a subsequent search of his home -- which allegedly contained images of the singer having sex with an underage girl -- he should have lost his career.
Yet when Kelly posted bail after his arrest, and left the courthouse to go directly to a kindergarten graduation, in direct violation of a court order, there were no repercussions.
When in 2003, author Kim Dulaney spoke out about Kelly in Star Struck, and when Kelly's brother released a DVD three years later claiming that R. Kelly had a problem with underage girls, his career held strong.
When Regina Daniels, Kelly's lifelong spokesperson, quit in 2008, stating that "a line had been crossed," Kelly's career saw no backlash. Her husband later came forth about Kelly's relationship with their daughter, to which another Kelly spokesperson, Allen Mayer, replied:
It's hard to take seriously the moral outrage expressed by George and Regina Daniels over R. Kelly's relationship with Mr. Daniels' adult daughter, Maxine. The fact is that they had no problem with the relationship -- indeed, they encouraged it -- while Ms. Daniels was on Mr. Kelly's payroll.
When the trial ended in 2008 with a verdict of "not guilty," and the jury stated that while they were "certain that Kelly was the man on the tape, but they could not be certain about the identity of the girl, hence they could not be sure about her age and whether the video really was child pornography," there was no boycott. No outrage. No release of Kelly from any record contracts. Nothing.
Story continues on the next page.
What has happened to R. Kelly's career in the midst of these repulsive allegations was not appropriate, no matter the justification. Rather than encountering outrage, he has become even more successful. Record sales have skyrocketed. Positive album reviews contemplating R. Kelly's joke-or-genius status have accumulated.
Coachella, Bonnaroo and Pitchfork have all booked Kelly to perform in the past year alone.The über-popular dance-pop band Phoenix, which has a sizable underage fan base, even welcomed him onstage for a collaboration at Coachella.
Major artists continue clamoring to work with Kelly, despite the troubling allegations and the singer's asinine levels of misogyny in his music. First it was Jay Z in 2002, right in the midst of the videotape scandal. Then Kanye West in 2012.
Now Lady Gaga, who just so happens to have a massive following of underage fans. By way of their collaboration, she's promoting R. Kelly to them.
Until their duet from her new ARTPOP album, "Do What U Want," Gaga's young fans had probably never heard his name. Kelly had been somewhat stuck in obscurity when it came to tweens and teens during recent years. Earlier '00s hits like "Ignition" were much too long ago to have an impact on kids who are now around the age of Kelly's previous accusers.
Yet now, thanks to mainstream radio play on a pop song, these kids are singing along with R. Kelly's lyrics. We've opened the door for a man who, more likely than not, has some legitimate issues to deal with.
We've also lost sight of the responsibility we have in situations like this. From the artists who worked with him to management to the writers who covered him and fans who bought his records, we should have shut this whole thing down well before the end of the '90s. But we haven't.
Instead, we continue promoting a man who has settled lawsuit after lawsuit brought about by teenagers, all of whom accuse him of inappropriate sexual relationships.
We're writing news stories on R. Kelly's new, overly sexual and more than likely misogynistic album Black Panties. The name alone should clue into the subject matter. We're even writing up bits and pieces on his new "12 Days of Christmas" project, which he's promoted as "a whole lot of lovemaking" Christmas music. This is coming from a man accused of having a penchant for children, time and time again.
It's just gross.
We're still analyzing the contents of his epically long R&B operas, Chocolate Factory, for example, and we're waiting with bated breath for his performances on Saturday Night Live.
Something is wrong with this equation.
We should be pissed that Kelly is still recording music. We should be refusing to give him a platform to speak, and refusing to listen to his "lovemaking" Christmas album. For Christ's sake, the man settled a bunch of lawsuits with children who accused him of abuse.
He shouldn't be famous anymore, and he certainly shouldn't be promoted by the likes of Kanye and Lady Gaga. Come on. Personal responsibility is a thing, even for artists.
These girls were not adults, no matter how sexualized teens are in the media. Yes, they have breasts and asses, and there is video after video of teenage girls engaging in risqué dancing or dressing in skimpy clothing, but they are still not adults.
It's unjustifiable for this man to have a career at this point, and one has to wonder whether if the roles were reversed -- if the alleged victims were of another skin color, another demographic, or if the alleged perpetrator was someone other than R. Kelly -- would there not be more outrage?
They are children. Their brains react like children. Their maturity level is that of children. They are not adults. They cannot consent to having sex with grown men.
For what it's worth, I refuse to write anything further on the subject of R. Kelly. I will not listen to Gaga's collab, or Jay Z's, or Kanye's. The same goes for whatever artist jumps on his bandwagon next. We shouldn't be reinforcing societal ideals that promote abusers, musicians or otherwise.
And even if he were squeaky-clean, sans settled lawsuits or videotapes, I would still be questioning why he's on the radio. Really, his music kind of sucks.
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