R. Kelly: Does Liking His Album Mean You’ve Forgotten his Child Porn Charges?

The R&B singer released new music this month, but he's back in the news for a different reason

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R Kelly performs on Oct. 17, 2013, in Miami

R. Kelly’s latest album, Black Panties, came out on Dec. 10 — but the music on the album is probably not why you’ve been hearing about him over the last few days. Though the singer’s image as a sex-obsessed, smooth-talking, kinda-silly crooner has been bolstered by innocuous stunts like Benedict Cumberbatch doing a dramatic reading of his lyrics on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Rolling Stone asking him to write a sexy song about dolphins and hockey, his more recent headline mentions have been far more serious. That’s because they’re actually references to the older headlines he made, back before he was known for irony-friendly fare like Trapped in the Closet.

Here’s what happened: This week, as Black Panties continues to receive many favorable reviews, Village Voice published an extensive interview by Jessica Hopper with Jim DeRogatis, a writer who, as a Chicago Sun-Times beat reporter, helped uncover the allegations that R. Kelly had had sex with underage girls. In 2002, R. Kelly was charged with child pornography for videotaping himself engaged in sexual acts with a minor; he was acquitted in 2008. Other lawsuits were settled out of court.

The full interview with DeRogatis is worth reading — it covers how the story broke and DeRogatis’ feelings about it today, and includes copies of official documents from the 2002 indictment. It’s inspired an upwelling of conversation about how and whether the pop-culture world has forgotten about Kelly’s past, the racial implications of the case, and what do to when someone harbors doubts about the accuracy of a “not guilty” verdict. (As for Kelly himself, he’s not saying much about this latest conversation; when asked, he told an Atlanta radio station that “when you get to the top of anything, it’s very windy.”)

(MORER. Kelly Sings Emotional Tribute Song For Nelson Mandela)

But, as important as the specific conversation about R. Kelly is, that’s not the only thing that DeRogatis’ interview is, at its heart, about. The larger question at hand — sparked by DeRogatis’ take on Pitchfork’s decision to have Kelly headline their music festival this summer — is about consumers‘ and critics’ moral responsibilities when it comes to considering an artist along with his or her art. Is it okay to discuss a piece of music without acknowledging the musician’s non-musical conduct, good or bad as it may be?

In the interview, DeRogatis draws a fine line in discussing when it’s okay to leave morality out of music criticism. He mentions Led Zeppelin and James Brown as counterexamples: “The art very rarely talks about these things. There are not pro-rape Led Zeppelin songs. There are not pro-wife-beating James Brown songs.” Hence, if you’re writing about “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” it’s okay to not mention Brown’s personal troubles, but if you’re writing about R. Kelly’s odes to female genitalia it’s weird (and, DeRogatis posits, wrong) not to bring up his sex-related past.

DeRogatis is far from the first critic to wrestle with this question.

Perhaps the most famous example of an artist’s personal morality affecting the perception of his art is that of Richard Wagner, the composer who is known for writing “Ride of the Valkyries” and being an anti-Semite. Wagner died before Hitler was born, but his music was publicly beloved by Nazis and, like R. Kelly’s, has direct ties to the reason he’s controversial, as his art drew on German mythology and nationalist themes. Even today, you won’t hear Wagner’s famous Bridal Chorus at many Jewish weddings.

And it’s an unavoidable question that any thoughtful consumer of art must face at one point or another — how will the creator’s life affect your opinion of Roman Polanski‘s movies, Orson Scott Card‘s books, Chris Brown‘s music, George Zimmerman‘s paintings? Does it matter more if your consumption of the art, like Pitchfork’s hiring of Kelly, will help the artist financially? Does it matter how long ago the artist lived? Does it matter more if you’re a journalist, separating fact from criticism, versus a fan?

Works of philosophy about the morality of art, which date at least all the way back to Plato, have tended to focus more on the moral role of the art’s content — the topic that led Oscar Wilde to write that books can be good or bad, but not moral or immoral — than on that of the artist, but the two perspectives that come out of that history can still be applied in the R. Kelly question: moralism versus autonomism.

Moralism holds that the purpose of art is essentially a question of morality; autonomism, or separatism, holds that aesthetics are entirely autonomous/separate from morality. Or, to take a less highbrow comparison, is art like Project Runway, where the contestants are judged solely on their work in that one day, or is it like Survivor, where everything they do influences what happens at the tribal council?

There’s no easy answer, obviously — and that’s perhaps the one thing Kelly’s fans and detractors can agree on. As DeRogatis told the Voice: “I think each and every one of us, as individual listeners and consumers of culture, has to come up with our own answer. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer.”

(MOREChris Brown Was Raped. Does It Matter If He Doesn’t Think So?)

37 comments
KatieZell
KatieZell

R Kelly married Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old. She had signed the marriage certificate saying she was 18. He started out as her mentor and producer.

bigrejlee
bigrejlee

Man this fat dude is obsessed with Kelly. He brings up old news and try to make it appear new.  Duh! the prosecution had access to all this info. HE BEAT THE CASE.  This dude has a personal issue with R.Kelly.


If he was so serious about black young girls being sexually assaulted he would make it general but instead he only mentions R.Kelly. mmmmmm!!!

Apolitical_Misanthrope
Apolitical_Misanthrope

Ma'am, you need to stop bringing back the old news crap. It's going to do more harm to my head than never.

Reader792
Reader792

Before you decide to make any judgments on R. Kelly's supposed "innocence," I truly and deeply implore you to read in its entirety the article the author is referring to, which can be found here: 

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2013/12/read_the_stomac.php

This is NEW information, which people have NOT yet been exposed to, and it is truly heart-wrenching and painful to read.  I am a minority myself, and I live in Chicago so I know the affected neighborhoods R. Kelly has repeatedly targeted.  If anyone thinks that courts alone determine innocence - ESPECIALLY when the defendant is a multi-millionaire with access to the best attorneys on the planet - then I'm sad for that person's extreme naiveness.

Please read the article in the link above.  If you still feel he is innocent and all of this is nonsense, then you are 100% entitled to that opinion.  But please educate yourself and read all the facts first, facts that were not previously broadcast to the media as they now are.  Then make an informed decision, and speak your opinion all you like.

SincerayJackson
SincerayJackson

Why are we bringing up old things.. yes he was charged but found not guilty... what happened to innocent until proven guilty? That goes out the window when the media gets a hold of the story.. you are guilty before you go to court.


At the end of day, the man has been freed of all charges so move on. If this is something he truly did then that will be something that will be dealt with upon his death between him and God...

SassanK.Darian
SassanK.Darian

With all the supposed so-called "evidence", does one think the prosecutor would give R. Kelly a pass for all these "rapes"? I think not. The fact is that these were accusations from people who looked at Kellz as a dollar sign. If there was SO MUCH LEGIT EVIDENCE, it is preposterous to think that charges would not have been filed out of the dozens and dozens of these accusations. So-called "reporting" from a nobody loser reporter trying to gain his fame off the back of R. Kelly.

jetnroyalty12
jetnroyalty12

Being found "not guilty" is not the same as innocence . The trial determined there was not enough evidence , not that he didn't commit the crime . Not a single accuser spoke out in court because he paid their families in hush money . There is no doubt he used his fame and stardom to seduce women and from court documents he liked them very young . The mere fact that it was dozens of young females , each providing in depth details pages and pages long with the same endings in each, that is not a coincidence . I feel for these women and am disgusted by Kelly. He is attracted to little girls and there is no doubt he hasn't taken advantage of more since. That's the thing about a predator, they can't stop.

EbonyLeeloominai
EbonyLeeloominai

I find it amazing that those who are defending his position, are cussing and enraged because people have a different position. R Kelly is a pedophile and a rapist. Period. No matter what the "court says". That's a matter of legality but not ethics or morals. Now, I understand that we all have different opinions when it comes to morals, but I'm pretty sure you don't want your daughters or sisters or neices to experience what these girls did. Let us remember Mr. Zimmerman was also aquitted, does that mean he didn't kill Trayvon Martin? No it does not! All I'm saying is, just like you have a right to your opinion and a right to support him with your dollars, I have a right to choose not to support him with my dollars and voice my opinion, as an American, and an advocate for children. R Kelly is a pedophile and a rapist, even if the court and those of you who support him disagree.

NoFucksToGive
NoFucksToGive

He was found NOT GUILTY. He stood trial. Each of these allegations faced the legal system. There's absolutely no FACTS to back up calling him a "predator or rapist". NONE.

shantae
shantae

That man was found not guilty dam can we move on. No one can deny the fact that Kellz makes good music and that is what we are fans of geesh

Texas35x
Texas35x

Let the one of us who is  WITHOUT sin cast the FIRST stone ....

SukeMadiq
SukeMadiq

Buying his music in any form means you are supporting a child molester.


Supporting a child molester makes you a scumbag.


How would you like him if he raped and urinated on your 14 year old relative?

dfella504
dfella504

and to da bitch who wrote this ...yur probably sum popped ass white chick who no one wants , or maybe u wanna to pee on u lbvs!

LeCe10
LeCe10

R. Kelly is a child predator and rapist.

bee4everlamb
bee4everlamb

Well this was very balanced, which I enjoyed and posits a very real question that needs to be asked and answer. By these standards then many of us shouldn't be listening to philosophers, intellectuals, scientists,founding fathers, etc. From back in the day when slavery, female subservience, inequality, etc. were commonplace and seen as okay and many of those people partook in those things. 

SenanMurray
SenanMurray

The most genuinely balanced commentary on this subject yet! The role of the media is to hold up the mirror to our faces (society) and we'll decide whether we like what we see. That's about it really. If DeRogratis were prosecutor/jury/judge at that trial, R. Kelly would have been locked away a long time ago and the key thrown somewhere beyond the reach of man. He's very clear about where he stands on the subject. Unfortunately, the American legal system is very clear about where it stands on the same subject. It's cheap and really disingenuous to blame a 'black culture of solidarity or silence' that allegedly allows young black women to be reduced to nothing. The R. Kelly question is way more fundamental than that, I'm afraid. There are many others who make R. Kelly's kind of music. It's your call, alone! 

SassanK.Darian
SassanK.Darian

It is all funny and good that the haters all come out on board to hate on Kellz at a time when he is once again on top of his game. The fact is that R. Kelly was persecuted and sent on trial and was found NOT GUILTY in a court of law. It is also a fact that those who are successful have people after them for $$$ as seen by those who have with slander in the past thrown accusations against the man. And it is a fact that celebrities settle these suits outside of court to both avoid publicity as well as lawyer costs. If Kellz was guilty, he would have been in jail a long time ago. Keep hating on the man while he does his thing. We will continue to love and support Kellz all the way. Being the WORLD'S GREATEST does have people throwing stones at him where none are warranted.

#libtardedamerica
#libtardedamerica

"Does Liking His Album Mean You’ve Forgotten his Child Porn Charges?"


no, it means you're capable of separating r. kelly the man and r. kelly the musician. liking his music doesn't mean that you've forgotten, just that you don't care enough to let it influence your musical preferences

EbonyLeeloominai
EbonyLeeloominai

@Texas35x Have you ever been raped? Jesus said that because they were going to kill her (by stoning her). Not because what she was doing is right. He also said, Go and sin NO MORE.

You and other's like you misquote and therefore misunderstand what it means. There is no way he should be out and about able to peruse the streets for young girls. If you did it you'ld be labeled a pedophile and a permanent member of the sex offender registry. Why is he any different?

Texas35x
Texas35x

@SukeMadiq  Was he found not guilty or was't he ??  I'm so sick of these so called "americans" who don't think our courts and justice systems are enough.


How childish and stupid of you to say that if u buy his music you're supporting child porn ?

You're nothing more than a internet troll

Texas35x
Texas35x

@LeCe10  ..let's assume you're right. Which would be stupid.   Didn't he go to court ? didn't he face our american system ??

 He's not in jail ....as an american he has every right to MAKE money...


LECE10 until he's poor like you..u won't be happy

LeCe10
LeCe10

@bee4everlamb   NOTHING WAS BALANCED.  HE PAID THOSE FAMILIES OFF.  AND, OR THREATEN THE GIRLS AND THEIR FAMILIES.  ONE GIRL BUT, NUMEROUS YOUNG GIRLS?   R. KELLY IS A CHILD PREDATOR AND RAPIST.  HE IS SICK.

NoFucksToGive
NoFucksToGive

@SenanMurrayBelieve it or not, DeRogratis was called to testify against R. Kelly and he decided not to. He actually helped R. Kelly's legal team.

LeCe10
LeCe10

@SassanK.Darian     THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT RAPE.  ASK YOUR MOTHER AND SISTERS.

HE PAID THE FAMILIES OFF.  AND, HE PROBABLY HAD SOMEONE THREATEN THE GIRLS FAMILIES.   BLACK MEN NEVER STOP DEFENDING EACH OTHERS HORRIBLE BEHAVIOR.


THIS MAN IS A RAPIST AND CHILD PREDATOR.

LeCe10
LeCe10

@#libtardedamerica  IT MEANS YOU  DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE YOUNG GIRLS R. KELLY HAS RAPED.


YOU ARE NO BETTER.

thingsthatgopop
thingsthatgopop

@Texas35x @SukeMadiq  If you read the court transcripts, you would have seen numerous acts of child pornography documented. R. Kelly has admitted to having sex with underage girls, which is a crime in this country. Rich men often elude incarceration for a host of reasons, including jury tampering and coercion. Our system is greatly flawed; in the book 'Convicted But Innocent: Wrongful Conviction and Public Policy,' written by C. Ronald Huff, director of the Criminal Justice Research Center, states that about 10,000 people in the United States may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year. It stands to reason that if so many can be falsely accused then at least one man got away with his crimes. If you are the sort of person that cares more about the music he makes, then the crimes he's committed, then have the balls to own that. However, don't act as if he's being wrongly persecuted, because not even you, can be that naive.

NoFucksToGive
NoFucksToGive

@LeCe10@bee4everlambHow do you know for a fact he paid anyone off? Did he tell you? Did the people who were "paid off" show proof? Let me know, ok?

Texas35x
Texas35x

@LeCe10 @bee4everlamb  He paid those families off ???? tells you HOW LOW CLASS those PEOPLE are now doesn't it ?


I sure as hell don't want a man to be punish over a FAMILY as LOW CLASS as that....

NoFucksToGive
NoFucksToGive

@LeCe10Rapist and child predator are strong terms. We have no FACTS to call him that. They're all ALLEGATIONS. I can claim right now R. Kelly raped me but that doesn't make a FACT.

Mdpacke
Mdpacke

@LeCe10 


There is no prroff that r . Kelly did any of this things. Stop being so RAYCIST and IGNORANT. Enjoy r- kellies musik while it lasts and dont mind all the haters making up fake stories to bring a strong black man down!

BruceEdmundCarroll
BruceEdmundCarroll

@EbonyLeeloominai @Texas35x @SukeMadiq George Zimmerman got away with murder like OJ Simpson got away with murder they were both guilty of murder yet they got away with murder. and if R. Kelly did admit in court that he had sexual intercourse with underage minors, he would have been convicted by now.

thingsthatgopop
thingsthatgopop

@Mdpacke   If you read the court transcripts, you would have seen numerous acts of child pornography documented. R. Kelly has admitted to having sex with underage girls, which is a crime in this country. Rich men often elude incarceration for a host of reasons, including jury tampering and coercion. Our system is greatly flawed; in the book 'Convicted But Innocent: Wrongful Conviction and Public Policy,' written by C. Ronald Huff, director of the Criminal Justice Research Center, states that about 10,000 people in the United States may be wrongfully convicted of serious crimes each year. It stands to reason that if so many can be falsely accused then at least one man got away with his crimes. So if you're supporting R. Kelly because you believe his "not guilty" verdict  is valid, you are delusional. If you are the sort of person that cares more about the music he makes, then the crimes he's committed, then have the balls to own that. However, don't act as if he's being wrongly persecuted, because not even you, can be that naive.