Playbill

Real Talk: R. Kelly Still Tainted By Sex Scandal

A man in our extended family once did something heinous. It was an act that, by any measure, was monstrously inappropriate and very much illegal. When everyone found out what he had done, we were all very much shocked because he was, far as we could tell, an honorable enough man.

He'd served in the military and held a thankless city job for countless years. He wasn't anybody's idol, but had done his best to raise his children and protect his family. But then he did this thing and everything changed. Everyone in the family knows he did it, even if none of us were there when it happened. He's never acknowledged it publiclly, but he's had to do so privately. It's melted into this unseemly, unshakeable stink.

When his wife of many, many years found out about it, she attempted to leave him, but a life of depending on him to provide for her financially and, more importantly, emotionally, had eroded her sense of self. She eventually found her way back to him, but being around them, it's clear that she does not love him the way she once did.

The rest of the family did not disown him or denounce him. They - or we, rather - largely ignore him, and everyone appears to be rather disgusted with him, but he still exists in the periphery. He pops up every now and again, and he is placated and, if someone is forgetful enough, even occasionally warmly received. But then he does or says something that reminds everyone that there is, or at least was, evil in his bones.

We mention this, naturally, because R. Kelly will be in town Sunday, and that same stink has attached itself to him.

Inarguably, Kelly is one of the greatest R&B musicians of all time. Including compilation and collaborative efforts, he's recorded 18 proper albums, won three Grammys, wrote a song for Michael Jackson about persevering that was fucking amazing and somehow wrote a song for himself about how a girl was like a Jeep that, viscerally, was even better.

Kelly also happens to have been arrested twice on charges of child pornography, the most egregious of which included a now infamous video of a man who looks an awful lot like him having sex with a preteen.

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Shea Serrano