‘No one cared because we were black girls’: is time finally up for R Kelly?

Women have accused the singer of sexual abuse for decades. So why are they only being listened to now? Blame misogyny and racism – but also the potency of his music

“Yo, Pac!” You can almost feel the spittle as Gary Oldman launches into his soliloquy. It is 2012, and he is performing in a skit on Jimmy Kimmel’s US talkshow, reciting from R Kelly’s autobiography with the plummy majesty he later brought to the role of Churchill. “What up, baby?” he utters as the audience collapses in giggles. The joke is twofold: English people are so white! But also: R Kelly is so ridiculous!

For years, Robert Kelly, now aged 52, was seen, as Kimmel put it that night, as “great and inexplicable”. He was one of the US’s most brilliant entertainers, beloved for his uproariously carnal R&B tracks and stratospheric ballads. But there was something that set him apart from his musical peers: a knowing ridiculousness, which would prompt him to cast himself in a 33-part television opera centering around a well-endowed dwarf, describe himself as a “sexasaurus”, and make Same Girl, his duet with Usher, so hammy it would inevitably be spoofed by Flight of the Conchords in a song called We’re Both in Love With a Sexy Lady. This sense of self-mockery gained him a new, white hipster audience – Pitchfork booked him to play its festival in 2013 – and also helped insulate him from criticism. Until now.

It has been alleged for more than 20 years that Kelly has had abusive relationships with women. He wrote and produced Aaliyah’s debut album, then was reported to have married the R&B star illegally when she was 15. The album was titled – chillingly, in retrospect – Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number. In 1996, Tiffany Hawkins sued Kelly for “personal injuries and emotional distress” during a three-year relationship that began when she was 15 and he was 24. That suit, and three others since, were settled out of court. Kelly has only appeared before a judge once, in 2008, when he was accused of making child abuse images by filming sexual encounters, including one in which he urinated over an underage girl. A jury couldn’t identify the man or the girl in the video without doubt, and Kelly was acquitted.

Original Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *