It’s a shame that the same reporter who sent the tape of R. Kelly allegedly having sex with a minor years ago had to write another piece chronicling the singer’s stomach-churning antics to get people to once again debate the merits of supporting this man. The Buzzfeed expose details R. Kelly’s allegedly abusive behavior in what parents describe as a “sex cult” where he holds young women against their will at his Atlanta home. Their sole role is to sexually service him while he demands to be referred to only as “Daddy.”
Even if he’s denied criminal wrongdoing, R. Kelly has long waved his desires for young girls and the history of serial abuse that comes with it directly in our faces. Even before he married Aaliyah as a teenager, he had her sing lyrics he wrote that featured her calling on him to sexually please her. Even after being acquitted of 14 counts of child pornography, he continued settling civil suit and after civil suit that alleged he had had sexual, predatory relationships with minors. And yet, even with this baggage, he had the nerve to dub himself “The Pied Piper of R&B”—a troubling nickname to those familiar with both the fable and his disturbing past.
Many of us who have long found him to be a monster continue to ask the question: How can anyone with a conscience choose to work with this man?
Even before this explosive story, I was revisiting that question after noticing that quite a few R&B female artists I enjoy made the choice to open for him on various tour dates this summer. This would include the multi-platinum selling singer Monica, who began her career around the same time as other 1990s R&B teen acts Brandy and Aaliyah; LeToya Luckett, an original member of Destiny’s Child who has her own platinum solo debut album; and June’s Diary, the new girl group created on a television show hosted by Kelly Rowland that aired on BET in 2016. If you take a look at their respective Instagram accounts, you will find that Monica is set to open for Kelly in Baton Rogue on August 12th; the following day, LeToya Luckett will be opening for him; June’s Diary has been the main opening act on Kelly’s “The Afterparty Tour” since late last year.
Under LeToya Luckett’s account, one user wrote under the concert flier posted:
I really hope you’re still not doing this show with this man after what has recently come out about him. I was honestly surprised that you were even doing this show because of his past behavior with girls. Please, Toya, cancel this show with him.
While their decisions may seem questionable, there are some sad facts to consider.
Despite ample evidence that he’s a despicable human, R. Kelly remains one of the few R&B acts that can not only just successfully tour, but sell out larger arenas. It is a testament to his success that has spanned over two decades. His fan base is stubbornly dedicated, particularly among the very women who typically support other R&B singers like LeToya Luckett and Monica. Though both have long had longstanding relationships with major labels, each singer is now independent; in a musical climate already unfavorable to black women not named Beyoncé and Rihanna, imagine being a black female singer without a machine behind them.
Now imagine what a spot on R. Kelly’s tour could do.
As for June’s Diary, who are incredibly talented but not have enjoyed a push from their label, one can empathize with the logic of wanting to sing in front of the faithful fans of an R&B icon.
As it stands now, the misogyny ingrained in both the music business and in our society means a man like R. Kelly can continue to enjoy sizable support despite decades of being accused of sexual predatory behavior while talented women with less tawdry histories have to defer to and depend on him for visibility and money. But although female artists like Monica, LeToya Luckett, and June’s Diary have been put in terrible positions with respect to their careers, this latest reminder that R. Kelly is a Zorro mask wearing walking bag of shit begs the question of whether association with him is worth it.
This is a question that must also be asked of men who have absolutely no reason to be affiliated with R. Kelly but choose to be all the same. Men like Alexander Wang, who earlier this year decided to include R. Kelly in his Spring/Summer 2017 digital campaign alongside model Anna Ewers. R. Kelly is not exactly known for his style. The only style he was known for in the 1990s—a bald head, a black leather vest, and black shades—he lifted from singer Aaron Hall. To get a co-sign from Wang is to reintroduce R. Kelly to the mainstream.
No matter how challenging their circumstances, anybody who steps on a stage for R. Kelly is enabling him and his behavior. How many reminders do we need that awful men can violate women and girls without repercussions?
When will people step up and stop lending their names to Pissy the Pedophile?