Look, R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” is a bop. R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” will always be a bop. And we’ve already all got it in our iTunes where we can listen to it forever and ever without ever giving R. Kelly any extra royalties (if you’re listening to it on Spotify or Apple Music, uh, how about don’t). But now that it’s 2017 and R. Kelly’s facing another sex scandal, we have to wonder how he keeps getting work.
Yeah, we get it, his music is amazing, blah blah blah, separate the art from the artist and all that, but c’mon, guys. After everything with Aaliyah, that pee tape, and now a cult, we have to wonder — how is R. Kelly still getting work? It’s time to call it quits. And if you’re not uncomfortable enough yet with everything that R. Kelly’s done, well, we’ve got all the gory details right here.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
It all started with Aaliyah. Back in the early 1990s, R. Kelly was working with Aaliyah as a mentor, writer, and producer (you know, typical adult stuff) for her first album, Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number. At the time, it was a seriously cool title for the album of an up-and-coming star who was only 14 — but once you heard things were getting romantic between the teen and her 20-something mentor, it got real gross real quick. And then 15-year-old Aaliyah and 27-year-old R. Kelly got married. According to Rolling Stone, the music magazine Vibe even uncovered their marriage license from Cook County, Illinois — and it listed Aaliyah’s age as eighteen. Guess age does matter when it comes to the law, huh, R. Kelly?
The marriage was allegedly annulled either that same year or the next one, and in 1997 Aaliyah had the records sealed (rumor has it she was able to do so because she’d lied about her age — and because she hadn’t had parental consent to get married in the first place), but word was already out.
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Two years after his marriage to Aaliyah, another young woman R. Kelly had worked with came forward. Complex reported that Tiffany Hawkins worked as a backup singer for him — and she was alledlegly only 15 (noticing a trend?) when she and R. Kelly started sleeping together. One of her fellow backup dancers alleged that the "Ignition" singer had given them the impression that he’d be willing to help their music careers in exchange for sex — which, again, sounds pretty familiar considering his relationship with Aaliyah.
In 1996, Hawkins filed a lawsuit against Kelly, claiming not only that he’d had sex with her when she was underage, but also that “Kelly had her participate in group sex with other underage girls.” One of the girls, another backup singer, was even named in the suit — and The Chicago Sun-Times said that, when she was 16 and Hawkins was 15, R. Kelly had sex with her “while he simultaneously fondled the 15-year-old Hawkins.” That’s next level. R. Kelly denies any wrongdoing, but the case was settled out of court — so it’s easy to imagine that there was something to the story.
R. Kelly also settled a lawsuit with a former Epic Records intern, Tracy Sampson, who said she and the singer had sex when she was only 17, claiming in the suit that she “was often treated as [Kelly’s] personal sex object…He often tried to control every aspect of [her] life including who [she] would see and where [she] would go.”
It’s not a pretty pattern — and it’s one that was well established in the news and in court.
Other than the mess with Aaliyah, this may have been the biggest story yet. In a video anonymously sent to The Chicago Sun-Times, R. Kelly engaged in statutory rape with a 14-year-old girl. Jim DeRogatis, the journalist who received the tape, described its contents for The Village Voice.
“You watch the video for which he was indicted and there is the disembodied look of the rape victim,” DeRogatis said. “He orders her to call him Daddy. He urinates in her mouth and instructs her at great length on how to position herself to receive his 'gift.' It’s a rape that you’re watching. So we’re not talking about rock star misbehavior, which men or women can do. We’re talking about predatory behavior. Their lives were ruined.”
In the same interview, DeRogatis also describes evidence of two dozen young women who’d made allegations against R. Kelly — and one who’d even been pressured into having an abortion when she got pregnant. Patrice Jones filed a lawsuit over just that in 2002.
Over the years, R. Kelly has been indicted on 33 child pornography charges in Illinois and Florida. Most were dropped or dismissed, and eventually R. Kelly was found not guilty — but in the larger context of all the allegations, these claims are hard to ignore.
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That same journalist, Jim DeRogatis, broke the news on Buzzfeed. According to their article, R. Kelly is holding six women hostage in some sort of cult-like living situation: “Six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.”
Where have we heard something like that before? Oh, yeah. Tracy Sampson claimed R. Kelly exhibited pretty much the exact same behavior with her.
Jocelyn Savage, one of the alleged hostages, spoke out in a video with TMZ. She said she’s “not being brainwashed,” she’s “totally fine and happy where [she’s] at,” and “everything is okay with [her].” She said she’s not being held against her will, but when TMZ asks her what state she’s in, she declines to answer, and when she’s asked if she’s free to leave, she said, “I wouldn’t want to speak on that.” Eagle-eyed viewers can spot a shadow moving on her shot that seems to indicate someone behind the camera is telling her not to answer.
And today, TMZ reported that an additional member of R. Kelly’s “cult” is free to come-and-go at will… but that the singer take their phones. The woman’s family members haven’t noticed any physical abuse when she’s visited them, but they believe he has a “calculating, methodical process to groom naive girls." It’s not exactly an inspiring defense.
Uh, the honest answer? Because people keep buying his music, his merch, and his concert tickets. As long as he’s still making money, there are always going to be people willing to give him opportunities. And even when those opportunities stop being offered — like when he was dropped from the Fashion Meets Music Festival lineup in Columbus, Ohio — as long as people are willing to pay, R. Kelly can finance his own opportunities.
So if you’re still streaming R. Kelly’s music, watching his music videos, or going to his shows — just know where that money goes. Because there’s a pretty good chance it could be paying for total control over six women’s lives.
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