New York Magazine has recently published an article about R. Kelly stating “he’s a musical genius — and he’s been accused of some awful things. Is it okay to listen to him?” Which might have seemed like a fair question whenhe was accused back in 2002, or even when he was found ‘not guilty’ of said ‘awful things.’ Now I’m not defending the R&B artist, I am only saying that we shouldn’t be wasting our time worrying about whether or not to listen to him based on a decade-old allegation. It is hard to think about now cutting Bump N’ Grind, Down Low and Space Jam’s I Believe I Can Fly out of my life when the man was found ‘not guilty’ so many years ago.
The R&B singer was arrested in 2002 after a video emerged which allegedly showed him engaging in sexual intercourse with – and urinating on – an underage girl. Police also found 12 images of an allegedly underage girl in Kelly’s home. R. Kelly was cleared of all counts by a Chicago court in 2008.
Kelly is also alleged to have married late R&B singer Aaliyah in 1994 when she was 15 and he was 26. The marriage was supposedly later annulled in February 1995, although both denied that the marriage ever took place.
In the New York Magazine interview with journalist David Marchese, R. Kelly was questioned about these claims, replying: “That’s a rumour that comes from the Earth, like all rumours… It’s not true. I love women, period. If I wasn’t a celebrity, people wouldn’t be saying these things about me.”
Marchese also referred to previous comments made by his brother, his former manager and his former publicist who have all suggested that Kelly has engaged in sex acts with underage girls.
The singer responded: “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.”
Marchese went on to say even Jim DeRogatis, the former Chicago Sun-Times reporter and pop critic, who has done more than anyone else to spread the word on Kelly’s alleged unlawful sexual behavior, admits: “The man is a musical genius.”
“People need to be aware of, given the subject matter of his art, what he is really about,” DeRogatis says. “You can despise the individual and appreciate the art, fine, but you need to be aware that you’re making a conscious decision to overlook some very, very bad behavior. You’re either ignorant of what he’s been charged of, or you’ve thought it through and said, ‘That all matters less to me than his cool grooves.’ What I want is for people to at least think about it.”
If none of us are denying the man’s genius and he has been found not guilty, surely we can now move on.
Some of the greatest rappers of all time have had some shocking allegations (though none as explicit as R. Kelly) brought against them and many have served jail time. This has never had an impact on record sales – in fact, it usually has the contrary effect. Most notably for Tupac; he and three associates were accused of sexual assault and Pac was sentenced to four and a half years in 1995. While locked up, Me Against The World reached number one on the Billboard 200, which made him the only artist ever to have an album at number one while serving a prison sentence. After serving only a few months, Tupac went on to release All Eyez On Me, arguably his most successful album.
Tupac is just one notable example, and there are plenty of other rappers who have served time, including Lil’ Wayne, DMX, Flavor Flav, Gucci Mane – and the list goes on. However, none of them are hassled about their pasts as much as R. Kelly. Why is this? Is it the nature of the accusation? The fact that it pertained to minors? Shouldn’t we have faith in Chicago’s judicial system? I, for one, will still listen to R. Kelly’s new album The Buffet which will be released in December. If you want to read the full interview between R. Kelly and Marchese you can find it here.