Well, that’s it for me!
As a longtime R. Kelly fan, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been making excuses for the Chicago crooner’s alleged behavior. He’s been accused multiple times of committing various levels of sexual misconduct toward underage girls and young women throughout the course of his career. My love for his skills as a Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and performer, for years, left me defending Kelly to friends who saw the light long before I did.
“What about James Brown’s history of abuse? Or Dr. Dre’s?”
“Chris Brown was actually convicted, and ya’ll still love him!”
“Seriously, what artist truly has a squeaky-clean background? Name one!”
“You can’t separate the artist from the man? Well, that’s on YOU!”
“He hasn’t been found guilty of anything!”
On a surface level, all of these arguments have a hint of validity. Even Spotify reversed its decision to remove Kelly’s music from its curated playlists because it was faced with the reality that several artists have been accused of heinous acts without consequence. I, however, choose to live by my own code of ethics, and the repeated, a little too consistent accusations that have been hurled at the star since he married a 15-year-old Aaliyah in 1994 have become too pointed, blatant and detailed to ignore.
The straw that really broke this fan’s back would be Kelly’s ex-wife Andrea Kelly, who after years of silence is all but confirming her “monster” of an ex’s disturbing proclivities, recently telling Inside Edition that the father of her children was physically and mentally abusive during their 10-year marriage.
“I often say I spent 10 years being married, but I don’t know what it’s like to be a wife …what was supposed to be my big beautiful mansion ultimately became my prison,” said Andrea Kelly, 44. She went on to share one incident burned into her memory, revealing the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer left her hogtied in their bed while he went to sleep.
Now, I know how hard R. Kelly fans go for him because I was one of them less than a month ago. The first assumption is that she is hopping on the #MuteRKelly train for a little fame or to make a dollar because where were all these tears when she starred on VH1’s Hollywood Exes, a gig she landed because of the star?
The “why did it take so long” argument that women and men face for not calling out their attackers immediately has been used to silence victims for years. You cannot dictate the timing of someone’s healing. Being abused in any way leaves lasting effects on one’s self-esteem, behavior and perception of the world around them, taking a huge toll mentally that may prohibit one from sharing their shame until they’re comfortable enough to deal with the expected attention and backlash. The telltale sign of three key members of his team quitting on him, recent accusations of grooming teens to be his “sex slaves” and yet another lawsuit headed his way for knowingly giving a woman an STD is enough for me to wash my hands of the Pied Piper.
Letting go of Kelz won’t be easy for me. I must admit, I have specific, awesome memories attached to tracks on just about every one of his albums. I even remember my uncle playing 12 Play at my grandmother’s house when I was 6 years old. I’ve literally grown up to his music, not to mention the countless hits he’s written for others and undeniably dope collabs with everyone from Bono to Kirk Franklin to Ty Dolla $ign. Even his knack for kitschy storytelling a la Trapped in the Closet has a certain charm to it. Still, I now choose to prioritized my morals over my memories, and if that means canceling Mr. Kelly, then so be it.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published June 2018.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.