Every day, a new detail is reported about the slew of sexual accusations against R&B singer R. Kelly. Every day a new musician or celebrity is speaking out against the music icon.
The only problem: This is a decades-old story. The call to action is, disgustingly, about 15 years too late.
Not only has the condemnation from public figures come too little, too late for Kelly’s victims, many of whom were underage when the incidents allegedly happened, it’s occurring only after a recent Lifetime docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” aired.
Out of all the requests for celebrity interviews that went into production for the series, singer John Legend was the only person with the guts to speak on camera.
“When it comes to celebrities, it was incredibly difficult to get people who had collaborated [artistically] with Kelly to come forward,” the show’s executive producer, Dream Hampton, told the Detroit Free Press. “We asked Lady Gaga. We asked Erykah Badu. We asked Celine Dion. We asked Jay Z. We asked Dave Chapelle. (They’re) people who have been critical of him. That makes John Legend even more of a hero for me.”
Legend tweeted that partaking in the documentary was an “easy decision,” and labeled Kelly a “serial child rapist.”
Yes, it should be a very easy decision. Not a thought should go into standing up against a man who has actually sung about his accused transgressions. In 2017, parents of alleged victims claimed Kelly was keeping their daughters against their will in a cult.
After that, Legend first addressed Kelly in a Times Up Movement campaign called #MuteRKelly. Kelly didn’t quietly slink into the night, no. He appeared to flaunt the accusations, releasing the song “I Admit.” It includes these lyrics: “I admit that I am not perfect, I never said I was perfect / Said I’m abusing these women, what the f–k that’s some absurd s–t / They’re brainwashed, really? / Kidnapped, really? / Can’t eat, really? / Real talk, that s–t sound silly,” and “What’s the definition of a cult? / What’s the definition of a sex slave? / Go to the dictionary, look it up / Let me know, I’ll be here waiting.”
Kelly has denied any misconduct, and his lawyer has threatened to file suit against Lifetime. Lifetime rushed the six-part series onto television in spite of the legal pressure. Now, Kelly is facing serious consequences.
Gerald Griggs, an attorney for the family of Joycelyn Savage, one of the women featured in the film, told reporters Georgia’s Fulton County district attorney reached out to him after the show aired. Chris Hopper, the public information officer for the Fulton County DA, offered no comment on whether there was an open investigation.
But a father of one of the daughters in the documentary is offering more than a few comments, telling WTSP in Tampa, “I’m just wondering why Florida is not investigating this, because my daughter is from Florida, and the relationships and stuff started in Florida.”
Kelly has already been acquitted on 14 counts of child porn in Chicago. After this documentary, Cook County State’s attorney Kim Foxx said there is no active investigation there but encouraged alleged victims to speak up and approach the authorities. The question is, will any of Kelly’s longtime collaborators and friends do the same?
Celebrities Finally Speak After the Damage Is Done
A long list of celebrities and hip-hop stars have begun to post against R. Kelly. Wednesday night, Lady Gaga, who worked with R. Kelly on the single “Do What You Want (With My Body)” in 2013, finally addressed why on earth she chose to work with him.
In a post shared on all her social media platforms, she wrote, “I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously. What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible. As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and video at a dark time in my life, my intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative because I was angry and still hadn’t processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life. The song is called ‘Do What U Want (With My Body).’ I think it’s clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time.”
Not to diminish any bit of Gaga’s personal history with sexual assault, but wouldn’t that be more reason for her to say something sooner? It took the superstar a week after the Lifetime series ran before she issued any kind of comment, and that is disheartening.
Other stars who publicly condemned Kelly include, but aren’t limited to, R&B singers Ne-Yo Tank and actress Jada Pinkett Smith. Will Smith’s wife implored her Instagram audience to ask themselves why Kelly’s music streams actually increased after the documentary. According to a Spotify spokesperson, Kelly’s music streams spiked 16 percent following the first episode.
One can argue the younger generation downloaded the 51-year-old’s music to learn more about the subject of controversy. But in an industry where sales and money dominate, values often diminish.
Jay Z Still Silent
Jay Z collaborated with Kelly on a joint album and tour in 2002 when rumors of Kelly’s transgressions first actively circulated. Jay Z, now a father of two girls, green-lit the projects anyway.
Both record and tour sales disappointed, mostly due to reports of Kelly being charged with 21 counts of child pornography involving intercourse, oral sex, urination, and other sexual acts. Jay Z has yet to issue a comment about the Lifetime documentary or his former colleague, and that silence speaks volumes about his character.
Jay Z’s Roc-a-Fella Records co-founder, Dame Dash, did, however, open up to Nick Cannon in an episode of “Cannon’s Class” after the Lifetime series debuted. Dash said he regretted not objecting when Jay Z collaborated with Kelly, who wed Dame’s late girlfriend Aaliyah.
“I’m human, bro. But I had to look the other way, all these years,” Dash said. “So publicly that man did a record with the n—a that raped my girl, that he liked as well. Right? You understand what I’m saying? But no one said nothing.”
All well and good, but it doesn’t explain why Dash still appeared in a music video for Kelly’s “Fiesta” remix with Jay Z. He claimed he donated any proceeds he made from that album to a breast cancer awareness organization Aaliyah supported.
Earlier in the same clip with Cannon, Dash recalled Aaliyah’s reluctance to even talk about her time with Kelly. The widely popular singer tragically died in a plane crash in 2001 at just 22 years old. Court documents reveal she and Kelly secretly wed in 1994, when she was just 15. Kelly reportedly had to alter her age on the marriage license.
In hindsight, the relationship is even more disturbing when considering Kelly’s penchant for lyrically flaunting his misdeeds. The two collaborated on her debut album titled “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” The following year, her parents annulled the marriage.
It’s Not Just R. Kelly
Earlier this year, a friend cautioned that ever-increasing liberal acceptance of sexual orientations in society would soon normalize pedophilia. Vehemently, I disagreed. How could the violation of innocent children ever be overlooked, accepted, or tolerated?
After reading the history of R. Kelly’s charges, I wonder if that friend was right. Just last year, the Department of Justice announced the arrest of more than 2,300 suspected online child sex offenders during a three-month, nationwide operation conducted by Internet Crimes Against Children task operatives. The mission was called “Broken Heart,” and in only three months spanning March, April and May, they identified 195 offenders who either produced or engaged in child pornography. The number of victims is worse: 383 children suffered abuse.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said in that one operation they had investigated 25,200 sexual abuse complaints—in just three months. Let that sink in for a second.
Perhaps more law enforcement efforts should go into providing the justice the families of R. Kelly’s alleged victims deserve. With reports an arrest warrant was issued for Kelly’s manager last summer, over supposed death threats to Jocelyn Savage, a woman featured in the Lifetime film, efforts have been made. But to what end?
Our society’s distorted concept of fame, hesitation, and fear have allowed a man repeatedly accused of being a predator to evade serious repercussions. This documentary, at the very least, is a wakeup call (one far too late) not only to the travesties allowed in the music industry but to an often overlooked problem of pedophilia in America.