Who the hell decided to forgive R. Kelly?
Despite years of documented allegations of statutory rape, which included hanging around Chicago-area middle and high schools to troll for “dates,” the chart-topping R&B recording artist is still invited to perform at various industry events, including November’s Soul Train Awards. Known for blockbuster hits like “Trapped in the Closet,” “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Fiesta,” he is still producing and performing music distributed by RCA and working with other artists as a producer-songwriter.
I suppose a video of one Robert Sylvester Kelly urinating on a young girl wasn’t enough to get him permanently banished by record label executives, because now, he’s back with his 13th studio album—aptly titled The Buffet.
He stopped by HuffPo Live Monday afternoon to promote the new record. However, it didn’t take long for host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani to get around to the sexual-abuse allegations. After lulling him with gentle inquiries about his recent spate of success and his many fans, the web show anchor hit him with a series of questions about the accusations that have trailed him for decades.
“I did not come here to be interrogated. I didn't come here for a deposition,” Kelly said, before adding sarcastically, “Do you know what a deposition is?”
He continued, “This is a deposition. This is not about R. Kelly. This is not about music. This is about someone who works hard on his music who has an album out. This is about trying to interrogate me and this is about disrespect.” When Modarressy-Tehrani argued that she was merely conducting an interview and not being disrespectful, Kelly took it upon himself to question her intelligence. “That’s the level of your intelligence, not mine,” he sneered.
“R. Kelly was rude, condescending, sexist, and flat-out disgusting,” tweeted Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a CNN contributor.
He bemoaned the “lack of support” his music has been receiving broadly, choosing to blame The Buffet’s poor record sales’ performance on “technology.” However, when asked directly about the conflicted feelings some fans may still harbor over the litany of statutory-rape allegations, Kelly flatly said, “Fuck that.”
“You can’t satisfy everybody. You’re not going to have everybody to always hold you down.”
He repeatedly spoke of sold-out concerts and said “God bless” the people who have boycotted his music. He later threatened to walk out of the interview and head to McDonald’s, which is ironically where he allegedly used to pick up young girls after school, for a “McRib” sandwich.
Kelly wants us to forget that he used his celebrity to lure children into stomach-churning sexual acts. He’d like us to forget that, when he was 27 years old, he eloped with a 15-year-old singer named Aaliyah and produced her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.
According to Vulture, “In 1996, Kelly was sued for damages by a woman alleging the two began a sexual relationship when she was 15. Kelly settled out of court. In 2001, a similar lawsuit with a similar result. The next year, he was indicted on 21 counts of making child pornography after police came into possession of a video depicting a man resembling Kelly having sex with a young woman.”
Kelly settled a lot of lawsuits. Some suspect hush money was paid even before many suits were filed. In 2002, according to Vulture, one young woman claimed that he got her pregnant while she was still underage and “that one of his associates took her to get an abortion.” Kelly settled the case for an undisclosed sum.
And, who could forget the infamous bootlegged video in which Kelly is seen having sex with a teenage girl and urinating on her? It took prosecutors six years to bring that case to trial only to have the girl in question refuse to testify.
The lawsuits number in the dozens, but Kelly has never been convicted on criminal charges for statutory rape. Some complain that, like comedian Bill Cosby, Kelly may have bought his way out of a lengthy prison sentence. And similarly, one will find a good many Kelly supporters—especially among African Americans—who steadfastly refuse to believe the allegations and blame society for the extrajudicial conviction of a black man without due process.
To use Kelly’s own words: Fuck that.
In Demetrius Smith Sr.’s memoir The Man Behind the Man, Kelly’s former friend and personal assistant made it plain: “Underage girls had proven to be his weakness. He was obsessed, sickly addicted.”
Kelly’s sordid sexual proclivities and fondness for young girls are well reported. Unlike Cosby, his closest friends, advisers and at least one relative did not look the other way. His brother, ex-publicist, a former friend and a longtime personal assistant all corroborated the various charges against him. In fact, the Chicago Sun-Times published accounts that span more than a decade.
Even so, Kelly continues to enjoy all the trappings that a music career can bring, including—by his account—sold-out concerts and wealth that affords him a luxurious lifestyle. Other artists keep him on speed-dial for his hit-making talents.
“I’m producing a lot of people right now, I’m working with a lot of people,” he told HuffPo Live. “…I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, but I’m a very successful man.” Kelly complimented the host for being beautiful, but promised to bolt if he got any more “negativity out of your mouth.”
For his part, Kelly claims that he doesn’t hear the roaring criticism and said if he did, he’d never perform again. Kelly blamed the furor on the media and believes the level of disdain for him and his music are “made up.”
“Everywhere I go, from malls to restaurants, to tours—sold-out tours—overseas and back, and everywhere I’ve been, I’m a man who’s been around the world—multiple times—and everywhere I’ve been, I get nothing but love.”
Kelly is right. He still boasts a bevy of adoring fans. By and large—if I’m hearing them right—they say the singer-songwriter is “innocent until proven guilty.” Some of the young girls he allegedly victimized were “looking for a come up,” a woman named Charisse told Vulture. “That’s reality.”
No, the reality is Kelly is a predator who targeted black girls and he’s damn lucky that they weren’t mine. He’d need a barrel of cash to buy himself a new ass.