New York magazine published a profile on R. Kelly this week that poses the old question: “Is It Okay to Listen to R. Kelly?” In the story, the R&B legend who was acquitted of child pornography charges addresses his alleged “sexual attraction to underage girls.” Obviously, he says, he’s “moved on.”
Writer David Marchese spends much of the piece weighing the age-old question of whether fans can still sensibly listen to R. Kelly’s R-rated music, referring to R. Kelly as “both a predator overdue for punishment and a walking moral dilemma.” It’s a question most R. Kelly fans and non-fans have already pondered. (The article quotes reporter Jim DeRogatis, who helped remind people of Kelly’s alleged sexual predator past in a notorious Village Voice piece.)
Since nothing about R. Kelly is ever not sleazy, the New York mag profile reads with a thoroughly creepy undertone—in fact, it starts with R. Kelly staring at a woman sitting in a car next to his. But the most disturbing part is toward the end when the writer recaps this exchange with R. Kelly:
Do you have a sexual attraction to underage girls? I ask.
“That’s a rumor that comes from the Earth, like all rumors,” he says, sounding almost bored.
So it’s not true?
“No. It’s not true. I love women, period. If I wasn’t a celebrity, people wouldn’t be saying these things about me.”
How do you explain people close to you saying that you have a problem?
“I don’t know those people you’re talking about.”
I clarify: his brother, his ex-publicist, his former friend and longtime personal assistant.
“All those people have been fired by me. If you’re going to ask me these questions, you have to make sense out of it. It wasn’t until after they got fired that they said these things. Go figure. I got one life, and I don’t want to spend it talking about negativity. I’ve moved on. Maybe you haven’t.”
It’s not crazy to think that where there’s smoke there’s fire.
“Let’s correct that,” he says. “Smoke can be anything. I’ve seen smoke and then I looked and there was no fire.”
And what about all the settlements? All the rumors?
“I understand the game,” Kelly says. “Get as much dirt as you can on somebody, get it all together, and make it real juicy so we can sell some papers. I understand the job you guys have to do.”
This is R. Kelly once again being R. Kelly and figuring out how to flip media questions about his alleged predator habits into criticism of “haters” that typically ends with religious references. In this case, he says, “I go to church. I ask for forgiveness. Don’t make a big deal out of R. Kelly saying it in a song. I believe in God. I fear God. I don’t want to go to hell.”
Marchese also interviewed random people about Kelly, including an EMT worker who told him, “He don’t do anything lots of other men don’t do. But because it’s R. Kelly, I’m supposed to be mad about it? There’s a lot of fast girls out there looking for a come-up.”
Of note in this story, too, is that R. Kelly wrote 462 songs for his latest album, Buffet. That’s one too many songs. He could’ve stopped at around 175.
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