What It Means to Support R. Kelly

It’s unsettling to see R. Kelly succeed in the modern pop music industry. He’s featured in albums by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, 2 Chainz, and Mariah Carey, he was chosen to headline the Pitchfork Music Festival last year, he performed in the American Music Awards, and is allegedly heading to Broadway in 2014-15 to direct his musical “Trapped in the Closet.” The guy is a rapist, and his fans seem to have forgotten that he has committed heinous crimes against young black women.

In an interview with the blog VillageVoice, Jim DeRogatis — the primary reporter on R. Kelly’s sexual exploits — relayed evidence on public record detailing how a 24-year-old Kelly used to visit high schools to find sophomore girls, hook up with them after school and have sex with them. One girl was in a sexual relationship with him for 2 years, and after he dumped her, she — scarred by the relationship — slit her wrists in an attempt to commit suicide. R. Kelly illegally married Aaliyah Haughton when she was 15 by falsifying her age to 18 in their marriage certificate. In 2000, R. Kelly’s manager resigned and wrote a letter to R. Kelly’s attorney, stating he believed that Kelly needed psychiatric help for his pedophilia. His lyrics are overtly sexual, so it strikes me as odd when people aren’t nauseated by titles like “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number,” “Marry the Pussy,” or his other high-profile and explicit releases.

R. Kelly’s success despite his history offers an interesting glimpse into our society’s moral choices. To support R. Kelly’s music, you have to make one of two decisions: that an artist’s music is independent of his or her non-musical exploits, or that R. Kelly can be forgiven without taking responsibility for his crimes.

In a December interview with an Atlanta Radio.com station, R. Kelly responded to resurfacing stories about his sexual assaults by saying, “When you get to the top of anything, it’s very windy.” To share his nonchalant attitude is to send the message that it’s permissible to behave the way he did, and that the lives of young black women matter less to us a society than a few catchy pop songs. DeRogatis quotes Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of Black Popular Culture at Duke, who makes this point: one white girl in Winnetka, and the story would have been different.

As consumers and fans, it is our responsibility to make a choice to support R. Kelly’s actions or to condemn them. R. Kelly’s victims may never see justice. He was tried on very narrow grounds and, in the end, got away with rape by utilizing his fame and influence. But regardless of the shortcomings of our judicial system, his victims and their families certainly shouldn’t have to see their molester celebrated in the public eye, and experience the complete lack of empathy our society shows toward these young black girls.

Because his music is such a direct reflection of his personal actions, we have to ask ourselves whether principles mean more us than a few catchy beats.

7 thoughts on “What It Means to Support R. Kelly

  1. Man Shut the F*** up! R. Kelly is an example of winning against the odds. You a f****** Hater! Listen to his track titled “Shut Up” and his latest album. It’s for you and only you!!! SHUT UP! Kells you the King of R&B, keep killing’em dogg!!! We will support you and your music forever!!!

  2. Well first of all your article is really worthless to be frank. The man went to trial like any other person goes to trial a jury found him not guilty on all charges what more do you want ? . You expect Gods children to not forgive another one of their own ? We are not going to judge him the man said he is innocent only God will judge him and all of us on Judgment Day.

    I get the feeling you don’t see R. Kelly as a person rather as a celebrity, the man is from the hood in Chicago he overcame poverty through his God given gift . Like many people in the world who have been falsely accused of anything you can only imagine the pain that he feels ( Heaven I Need A Hug ) . If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life is that people will do whatever it takes to bring someone down who is doing so good for themselves.

    Its bad enough he was falsely accused, the media paints him as someone he isn’t , his family has to endure all these negative comments or even the fact that although some people tried to ruin his career he didn’t allow that instead he rose above . I don’t believe he is a criminal and I applaud Robert for his character and strength for being able to face the devils that point the finger at him everyday and still be able to smile and keep making HIStoric music.

    The man is a living legend a musical genius. We all have our faults but at times we get accused of things we could never do. Forgive others so that one day your Father may be able to forgive you.

    1. This is the nicest thing about R. Kelly that I have ever read! Years later this is still what people are talking about! And for what though? Some people can’t just let things stay in the pass. The man was found not guilty by a jury of his peers, that should be enough! The female that was supposedly in the video said that it was not her. And still, no woman has ever come forward and said that R. Kelly has touched her regardless of the fact that he’s a celebrity! I will be at his next concert front and center because I am and will always be a fan for life!

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