R. Kelly has enjoyed a comeback this year (the world screams, "He never left!") that has seen a prodigious new album and collaborations with two of music's biggest stars: Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.
But swept under the rug for years, and especially in this recent wave of publicity, are the myriad accusations of sexual assault that have been levied against Kelly.
While the underage urination episode remains a cultural cliché, the long and extensive history of R. Kelly's sexual assaults remains widely unknown. But one reporter is trying to change that, and the Village Voice is giving him an outlet to do so.
Jim DeRogatis was a beat reporter and music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times during Kelly's rise from local unknown to platinum-selling artist. In 2000, DeRogatis received an anonymous fax that alleged Kelly had been under investigation of the Chicago sex-crimes unit.
DeRogatis didn't want to believe it, but began investigating anyway. Soon he found an affidavit with endless evidence of Kelly's predatory behavior towards young girls at his former high school, Kenwood Academy:
"They were stomach churning. The one young woman, who had been 14 or 15 when R. Kelly began a relationship with her, detailed in great length, in her affidavits, a sexual relationship that began at Kenwood Academy: He would go back in the early years of his success and go to Lina McLin's gospel choir class. She's a legend in Chicago, gospel royalty. He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio. She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together."
Soon DeRogatis found that these accusations weren't abnormal, that in fact there were dozens of lawsuits from young girls alleging similar behavior by Kelly.
It was already common knowledge that Kelly married Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27, doctoring the marriage license so it said she was 18. But like the peeing video, it was joked about or ignored. But the fact that there were dozens of accusations of rape or sexual assault levied at Kelly has been completely ignored in favor or widespread promotion and adoration of the singer.
How was Kelly able to commit dozens of rapes, and never be prosecuted for them? In some cases, he settled out of court, he was able to use his status in Chicago to shield him from persecution and even allegedly flew families on vacation or gave them falsified album credits in return for silence about his behavior. But the most damning reason that this abuse has gone unreported comes from DeRogatis after he asked about a teenager that R. Kelly allegedly impregnated and purchased an abortion for:
"...There was a young woman that he picked up on the evening of her prom. The relationship lasted a year and a half or two years. Impregnated her, paid for her abortion, had his goons drive her. None of which she wanted. She sued him. The saddest fact I've learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: they are "bitches, hos, and gold diggers," plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of. Mark Anthony Neal, the African-American scholar, makes this point : one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different. No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn't have a chance."
Assaults like this, and a performer's ability to "move on" from them, while their victims suffer eternally, are entirely controlled by the public. It's a societal option to condone predatory sexual behavior because we find an entertainer hilarious and engaging, but it's one that betrays justice in favor of some perfect R&B.
However, issues like this raise an age-old quandary. If all these accusations are true (and it's extremely unlikely that all these girls were lying), does R. Kelly's art lose its value? Can you separate your disgust with a child rapist from your enjoyment of his music? Tweet us @EliteDaily and let us know what you think.