Surviving and Muting R Kelly are One and the Same


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Protesters holding up “Mute R Kelly” posters.

Nevaeh Valtierra, Co Editor-in-Chief

The year of 2018 has come to an end, but the #metoo movement is still very much alive.

Slowly we have created a culture where victims of sexual abuse can come forward. However, after years of suppressing these victims, there are a lot of predators left to be exposed.
Someone who has recently been under the spotlight is singer R Kelly. On Jan. 3 “Surviving R Kelly” aired on lifetime, which was a six-part docuseries that covered the decades of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated by the singer. The documentary included interviews of family, former friends, colleagues, and, of course, those he made victims. They cover what Kelly’s life was like growing up, growing into fame, and they describe the timeline of abuse. Of course the accusations have been floating around for years, but the series has created something that its viewers cannot deny.

In 1994 Kelly married singer Aaliyah. He was then 27 and she was only 15 years old. Kelly’s former tour manager had Aaliyah’s age forged on the marriage license, claiming she was 18. Aaliyah passed in 2001 in a plane crash. Her parents and Kelly refuse to comment on the short marriage, so, of course, there will be no repercussions for that disturbing relationship.

In December of 2000 the Chicago Sun Times published the first allegations publicly made against Kelly for using his fame to coerce girls into having sex with him. Around this time Chicago police had investigated the singer for possibly having sex with underage girls, but the investigation hit a dead end when the girl involved wouldn’t cooperate. Including some of the events talked about in the series, Lizette Martinez met the artist when she was just 17. Kelly then convinced her to meet with him. After giving Martinez hope of a future singing career, he plied her with alcohol and took her virginity; she was underage.

In February of 2002 the Chicago Police started an investigation against Kelly for child pornography when a video was sent to Chicago Sun Times. Kelly’s response was, “It’s crap and that’s how we’re going to treat it.” Then in July he was finally arrested. A grand jury indicted Kelly of 21 counts of child pornography related to the video. Seven of the 21 would be dropped in 2004 because the counts pertained to a law that wasn’t passed until after the taping of the video.

Of course the artist posted bail, and six years passed until his trial began. During those six years Kelly continued making music, performing, and had six Grammy nominations. If Kelly had been convicted of those charges he would have looked at 15 years in prison. However, on June 13, 2008 Kelly was acquitted of all charges. Although multiple people identified the girl and, of course, her being underage in the video neither she or her parents testified. Again, there’d be no repercussions. The jury declared Kelly not guilty.

In 2017 BuzzFeed published an article about Kelly’s apparent “sex cult”. The article talked about a very concerned mother whose daughter met Kelly and was promised help with making it to stardom. However, those were never actually Kelly’s intentions. The mother believes Kelly brainwashed her daughter to live with him. The mother is heavily concerned to this day because of the allegations made of the singer and the obvious change in behavior in her daughter.

Three women who knew Kelly pretty well spoke up about Kelly’s cult. In the article it said, “They said 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.”

Then in Oct. 2018 Kelly’s ex wife, Andrea Kelly accused him of physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse. She was 22 years old when her marriage with Kelly began. In an interview she said, “I believe that he is abusive… I can’t confirm or deny these women’s stories because again I have not lived it personally, all I can say is what rings true to my life.”

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Andrea Kelly telling her story in the “Surviving R Kelly” docuseries.

Now we’re here, with campaigns such as #MeToo, #MuteRKelly, #Timesup, and with the release of Surviving R Kelly it seems as though Kelly is not quite untouchable. One consequence he’s faced was just a few days ago when his record label, Sony’s RCA finally dropped him. However, his legacy is still very much alive. He is still on radio stations, performing, and his music is still available on our beloved Spotify and Apple music.

You’d think someone as sick and exposed as he is would delete anything that keeps them connected to the public yet he continues to promote new music. After looking through some of the retweets on his posts it’s clear that even with straightforward attestation from his victims people either still support him and/or his music. One read, “Don’t take away a man’s talent. No matter how fowl he is… separate the artist from the man,” and another said, “Praying for kellz.” There are tons more and even support pages where people discuss how he’s the “king of R&B” and where they share their adoration for him. These past couple of weeks, this documentary has been the topic of conversation and I’ve heard many talk about how they’ll forever love his music.

With all of this in mind, there are a few things that are important to think about. Although we can’t deny that Kelly was a successful artist, how can we continue to enjoy music that was created by such a monster? The answer is simple, people don’t realize how much of a part they can play in keeping his legacy alive. They don’t realize how much of a part they can play in Kelly’s stance of being innocent. His success seems almost intimidating and as though it’s not really something we can just remove, but there are ways to mute him. If you go to you’ll see a beautiful list of ways to join the movement that seriously, require zero sweat.