If there was one thing to take away from Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docuseries, it was that Kelly’s alleged crimes were supported by a vast and high-profile network of fans and famous people who stood by his side. And even though we’ve seen celebrities in Hollywood speak out against men like Woody Allen, Harvey Weinstein, or other alleged predators, the same has yet to happen in the music industry.
But after the R. Kelly docuseries, which compiles all of his alleged crimes from his marriage to an underaged Aaliyah to the recent reports he is keeping women in “a cult,” former collaborators and peers are now, finally, talking about Kelly.
“There is NO excuse. Music is important. It really is. But it’s not more important than protecting our children, protecting our little girls. PERIOD,” Ne-Yo posted on Instagram with the hashtag #MuteRKelly.
“We’ve invested so much of ourselves into this man that it’s hard for us to let go. I no longer have that issue,” Tank, who has been publicly supportive of R. Kelly up until now, wrote on Instagram as well. “I whole heartedly apologize for not coming to this realization sooner. I CANOT [sic] separate the music from the monster! My 3 black daughters won’t let me. What hurts even more are the facilitators around him. His team, his record company, the promoters, the radio stations! There has to be a line drawn.”
“As an artist & a champion of the arts, I am moved to share my position on #SurvivingRKelly which I haven’t seen but felt compelled to voice my position on this very serious issue since #rkelly has written songs for #B2K,” Omarion, who worked with R. Kelly when he produced for the group B2K, tweeted. “It’s important first to ACKNOWLEDGE that this has been an ugly truth in our industry for years and as opposed to dismissing it’s [sic] existence | its [sic] time to discuss it. EVERYONE has to be RESPONSIBLE. Many have bared [sic] witness to the unthinkable and yet have remained silent,” he added.
Roc-a-Fella co-founder Dame Dash, who dated Aaliyah up until her death in 2001, called out Jay-Z specifically for collaborating with R. Kelly in an interview with Hip-Hop Motivation. “If you remember The Best of Both Worlds, you don’t see my name on that... I never wanted no part of that,” he said. (It should be noted that Dash appeared in the music video for the Jay-Z and R. Kelly collaboration “Fiesta.”)
Rapper 6lack also tweeted, “this surviving r kelly series really has me pissed to start the new year. get this man tf outta here. please. he beyond trash.” And Meek Mill wrote, “I’m not feeling R after watching that .... it’s so much filthy shit going on in this industry nobody will ever really speak on the wild shit because most of them could have docs like this or even worst done about them!”
One of the more disturbing aspects of the documentary, and subsequent comments from people in the industry after watching it, is the constant reference to R. Kelly as a “filthy” man. It’s a theme when people talk about Kelly’s crimes, especially the tape that launched his child pornography trial. And when people talk about Kelly’s behavior in terms like “filthiness” or “trashiness,” all it really does is support the false idea that he’s just a guy with weird sexual preferences and fetishes and not, according to multiple allegations, a sexual predator who pursues underaged girls. To hear that echoed even as famous men denounce Kelly is disheartening.
R. Kelly’s accusers certainly don’t need celebrities to get their stories heard. But given the tight network of silence and complicity in the music industry around Kelly’s alleged behavior, their support is long overdue. That support also needs to be transparent about what the allegations really are.