R. Kelly

R. Kelly
Rkellytrappedinthecloset2007.jpg
Kelly in 2007
Born
Robert Sylvester Kelly

(1967-01-08) January 8, 1967 (age 54)
Other names
  • Pied Piper, Kells
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Years active1989–2019
Spouse(s)
(m. 1996; div. 2009)
Children3
AwardsFull list
Criminal information
Criminal statusIncarcerated at MDC Brooklyn in Brooklyn, New York City
(BOP custody without bail, inmate, held for sentencing 09627-035)
Conviction(s)Racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, violation of the Mann Act[1] (2021)
Criminal chargeProducing child pornography (2002; acquitted in 2008)
PenaltyAwaiting sentencing
Musical career
Genres
Labels
Associated acts
Basketball career
Personal information
Listed height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Listed weight200 lb (91 kg)
Career information
Playing career1997–1999[2]
PositionShooting guard / Small forward[3]
Number12[4]
Career history
1997–1999Atlantic City Seagulls[5]
Career highlights and awards
Websiter-kelly.com

Robert Sylvester Kelly (born January 8, 1967) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, and convicted sex offender. He has been credited with helping to redefine R&B and hip hop, earning nicknames such as "the King of R&B",[6] "the King of Pop-Soul",[7] and the "Pied Piper of R&B".[8]

Kelly is known for songs including "I Believe I Can Fly", "Bump N' Grind", "Your Body's Callin'", "Gotham City", "Ignition (Remix)", "If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time", "The World's Greatest", "I'm a Flirt (Remix)", and the hip hopera "Trapped in the Closet". In 1998, Kelly won three Grammy Awards for "I Believe I Can Fly".[9] Although Kelly is primarily a singer and songwriter, he has written, produced, and remixed songs, singles, and albums for other artists. In 1996, he was nominated for a Grammy Award for writing Michael Jackson's song "You Are Not Alone".[9]

Kelly has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making him the most successful R&B male artist of the 1990s and one of the world's best-selling music artists.[10][11] In 2010, Billboard magazine considered Kelly the most successful R&B artist in history and listed him as the Top R&B/Hip Hop Artist for the time period between 1985 and 2010.[12] In 2012, he was listed as the 55th best-selling music artist in the United States, with over 32 million album sales.[13]

Since the 1990s, Kelly has been accused of sexual abuse and misconduct, often with underage girls.[14] He has faced multiple civil suits and has been charged by criminal courts in Chicago, New York, Illinois, and Minnesota.[15] He repeatedly denied the charges.[14] In 2002, he was indicted on 21 counts of making child pornography[15][16] but was acquitted in 2008.[17] In January 2019, a widely viewed Lifetime docuseries titled Surviving R. Kelly detailed allegations of sexual abuse by multiple women, allegations that Kelly continued to deny. Facing pressure from the public using the Mute R. Kelly hashtag, RCA Records dropped Kelly.[18]

In 2019, Kelly was indicted by a Cook County grand jury in Chicago on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in February, followed by an additional 11 counts of sexual assault and abuse filed by the same court in May.[19][20] On July 11, 2019, he was arrested on federal charges alleging sex crimes, human trafficking, child pornography, racketeering, and obstruction of justice.[20][21][22] Kelly faced a total of 22 federal criminal charges as of January 29, 2021.[23] A federal judge ordered Kelly jailed pending trial on the charges. On September 27, 2021, a federal jury in New York found Kelly guilty on nine counts including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act. The judge ordered that he remain in custody pending sentencing, set for May 4, 2022.[24][25]

Early life

Robert Sylvester Kelly was born at Chicago Lying-in Hospital in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois,[26] on January 8, 1967.[27] He has three half-siblings,[28] an older sister and brother, along with a younger brother.[29] His mother, Joanne Kelly, was a schoolteacher and devout Baptist.[30] She was born in Arkansas.[28] The identity of his father, who was absent from Kelly's life, is not known.[30] His family lived in the Ida B. Wells Homes public housing project in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood.[31] Kelly's high school music teacher Lena McLin described his childhood home: "It was bare. One table, two chairs. There was no father there, I knew that, and they had very little."[32] Kelly began singing in the church choir at age eight.[29]

Kelly said members of his household would act differently when his mother and grandparents were not home.[citation needed] From age eight to 14, he was sexually abused by an older female family member.[28] Explaining why he never told anyone, Kelly wrote in his 2012 autobiography Soulacoaster that he was "too afraid and too ashamed".[33] Around age 10, Kelly was also sexually abused by an older male who was a friend of the family.[28] In his autobiography, Kelly described being shot in the shoulder, at age 11, by boys who were attempting to steal his bike,[33] although a family friend later stated that Kelly had shot himself while attempting suicide.[28]

Kelly described having a girlfriend, Lulu, at age eight, in his autobiography. He stated that their last play date turned tragic when, after fighting with some older children over a play area by a creek, Lulu was pushed into the water and swept downstream by a fast-moving current while she screamed for him. Shortly thereafter, her lifeless body was found downstream. Kelly called Lulu his first musical inspiration.[33]

In September 1980, Kelly entered Kenwood Academy in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, where he met music teacher Lena McLin, who encouraged Kelly to perform the Stevie Wonder classic "Ribbon in the Sky" in the high school talent show. A shy Kelly put on sunglasses, was escorted onto the stage, sang the song and won first prize.[30][34][35] McLin encouraged Kelly to leave the high school basketball team and concentrate on music. She said he was furious at first, but after his performance in the talent show, he changed his mind.[32]

In his youth, Kelly played basketball with Illinois state champion basketball player Ben Wilson[28] and later sang "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" at Wilson's funeral.[36] A learning disability, believed to be dyslexia, left Kelly unable to read or write.[37] He dropped out of high school and as a teenager and began performing in the subway under the Chicago "L" tracks.

Career

1990–1996: Born into the 90's, 12 Play and R. Kelly

MGM (Musically Gifted Men) was formed in 1989 with Robert Kelly, Marc McWilliams, Vincent Walker and Shawn Brooks . In 1990, MGM recorded and released one single, "Why You Wanna Play Me"; after its release the group disbanded.[38]

Kelly gained national recognition in 1989 when his group MGM participated on the talent TV show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. After MGM performed “All My Love”, which would become a demo for Kelly’s song “She's Got That Vibe”[39] the group went on to win the $100,000 grand prize.[40]

In 1991, Kelly signed with Jive Records.[41] Kelly's debut album Born into the 90's was released in early 1992 (credited as R. Kelly and Public Announcement). The album, released during the new jack swing period of the early 1990s, yielded the R&B hits "She's Got That Vibe", "Honey Love", "Dedicated", and "Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ)", with Kelly singing lead vocals.[42] "From the reception, the group and Kelly remark a close resemblance from other artists during the time as such stylistic appearance and verbal acoustic approaches like Aaron Hall, Guy and Bobby Brown as their artistic foundation, which media critics predicate."[43][44] During late 1992, Kelly and Public Announcement embarked on a tour entitled "60653" after the zip code of their Chicago neighborhood.[29] This would be the only album co-credited with Public Announcement. Kelly separated from the group in January 1993.[30]

I was really taking a chance with the concept of this album.

—Kelly on 12 Play, 1994.[45]

Kelly's first solo album, 12 Play, was released on November 9, 1993, and yielded the singer's first number-one hit, "Bump N' Grind", which spent a record-breaking 12 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. Subsequent hit singles: "Your Body's Callin'" (U.S. Hot 100: #13, U.S. R&B: #2) and "Sex Me" (U.S. Hot 100: #20, U.S. R&B: #8). Both singles sold 500,000 copies in the United States and were certified Gold by the RIAA.[42] In 1994, 12 Play was certified Gold by the RIAA, eventually going six times platinum.[46]

In 1995, Kelly garnered his first Grammy nominations; two for writing, producing and composing Michael Jackson's last number one hit "You Are Not Alone".[9][47]

Kelly's success continued with the November 14, 1995 release of R. Kelly, his eponymous second studio album. Critics praised him for his departure from salacious bedroom songs to embracing vulnerability. New York Times contributor Stephen Holden described Kelly as "The reigning king of pop-soul sex talks a lot tougher than Barry White, the father of such fluffed-up pillow talk and along with Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway, [both] major influences for Kelly."[48] Also in December 1995, Professor Michael Eric Dyson critiqued Kelly's self-titled album "R. Kelly" for VIBE. Dyson described Kelly's growth from the 12 Play album: "Kelly reshapes his personal turmoil to artistic benefit" and noted that Kelly is "reborn before our very own ears."[49]

The album reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming Kelly's first number one album on the chart, and reached number one on the R&B album charts; his second. The R. Kelly album spawned three platinum hit singles: "You Remind Me of Something" (U.S. Hot 100: #4, U.S. R&B: #1), "I Can't Sleep Baby (If I)" (U.S. Hot 100: #5, U.S. R&B: #1), and "Down Low (Nobody Has To Know)" (U.S. Hot 100: #4, U.S. R&B: #1); a duet with Ronald Isley. Kelly's self-titled album sold four million copies, receiving 4× platinum certification from the RIAA.[46] He promoted the album with a 50-city "Down Low Top Secret Tour" with LL Cool J, Xscape, and Solo.[50]

On November 26, 1996, Kelly released "I Believe I Can Fly", an inspirational song originally released on the soundtrack for the film Space Jam. "I Believe I Can Fly" reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on the UK charts for three weeks and won three Grammy Awards in 1998.[9][42] In that same year, he contributed Freak Tonight for the A Thin Line Between Love and Hate soundtrack.

1997–2001: Basketball, R., TP-2.COM, and Rockland Records

In 1997, Kelly signed a contract to play professional basketball with the Atlantic City Seagulls of the USBL.[4] He wore the number 12 in honor of his album 12 Play.[51] Kelly said "I love basketball enough to not totally let go of my music, but just put it to the side for a minute and fulfill some dreams of mine that I've had for a long time." Kelly's USBL contract contained a clause that would allow him to fulfill a music obligation when necessary. "If Whitney Houston needs a song written", said Ken Gross, the Seagulls owner who signed Kelly, "he would be able to leave the team to do that and come back". "It wasn't a gimmick", Gross continued, "he's a ballplayer. He can play."[52] Kelly is the first music artist to play professional basketball.[3][4]

In 1998, Kelly wrote and produced the debut album of another protégé Sparkle, which was released under his Rockland label and distributed through Interscope. In 2000, Sparkle went platinum due in part to the success of the first single, "Be Careful", a duet with Kelly.[53]

On November 17, 1998, Kelly released his fourth studio and first double album, R. Musically, the album spans different genres from pop (Celine Dion), street rap (Nas and Jay-Z) to Blues ("Suicide"). Dave Hoekstra of the Los Angeles Times described the album as "easily the most ambitious project of his career."[54]

As the year 2000 commenced, Kelly racked up a slew of new awards reflecting his status as an established R&B superstar. In January 2000, he had won Favorite Male Soul/R&B Artist at the American Music Awards and, in February, was nominated for several Grammy Awards, including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance ("When a Woman's Fed Up"), Best R&B Album (R.), and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group ("Satisfy You") with P. Diddy.[9][55]

On November 7, 2000, Kelly released his fifth studio album, TP-2.com, a project harking back to his breakthrough album, 12 Play. Unlike Kelly's previous effort, R., all songs on TP-2.com were written, arranged, and produced entirely by Kelly. AllMusic's Jason Birchmeier gave TP-2.com 4 stars and described Kelly's style: "Kelly knows how to take proven formulas and funnel them through his own stylistic aesthetic, which usually means slowing down the tempo, laying on lush choruses of strings and background vocals, taming down the lyrics for radio, and catering his pitch primarily to wistful women.[56]

In 2001, Kelly won the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Music of Black Origin or MOBO Awards and Billboard magazine ranked TP-2.com number 94 on the magazine's Top 200 Albums of the Decade.[57]

Rockland Records

In 1998 Kelly launched his own label, the Interscope Records-distributed Rockland Records. The label's roster included artists Sparkle, Boo & Gotti, Talent, Vegas Cats, Lady, Frankie, Secret Weapon, and Rebecca F.[58][59]

Also in 1998, the label's first artist, Sparkle released her debut self-titled album, Sparkle. In addition to producing and writing the project, Kelly made vocal contribution to the hit duet "Be Careful", which contributed largely to the album's success. The album was certified platinum in December 2000.[53] In 1999, Kelly wrote and produced the soundtrack to the Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy movie Life, which features tracks from K-Ci & JoJo, Maxwell, Mýa, and Destiny's Child. The soundtrack was released on the Rockland label.[60]

2002–2003: The Best of Both Worlds and Chocolate Factory

"The World's Greatest", from the Ali soundtrack, was a hit, and Kelly performed at the closing ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics.[61]

On January 24, 2002, at the press conference announcing The Best of Both Worlds completion, celebrities such as Johnnie Cochran, Russell Simmons, Luther Vandross, and Sean Combs lined up to praise the album, with Jay-Z stating that he hoped the collaboration represents "more unity for black people on a whole."[62] Black Electorate described the collaboration as "one of the greatest power moves in black music history."[63] MTV's Shaheem Reid wrote: "And if Jay and Kelly can put their egos to the side long enough to wrap up and promote their album, then their labels—Def Jam and Jive, respectively—can surely figure out a way to join forces and make cheddar together. As determined by a coin toss, the album will be distributed on Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam in the U.S. and Canada, while Jive will handle distribution internationally."[62]

When the joint album leaked on February 22, 2002, it caused the label, Roc-A-Fella, to modify the album's release date in March.[64] Jay-Z expressed frustration about the album leak to MTV News: "It's the gift and the curse. It's an honor that everybody wants your music fast, but on the other hand, it's another thing when the music gets out before you [want it to]. Because that's your art. You feel attached to it. You feel a certain way and you want people to go out and support it. The time that you take, it's like a piece of your life. You take parts of your life and you put it on these records and then for it to just be traded and moved around [is frustrating].[64]

The Best of Both Worlds album sold 285,000 copies in its opening week and debuted at number two on the Billboard 200.[citation needed]

In May 2002, Kelly's initial sixth studio album, Loveland, leaked and was delayed to release in November.[65]

2004–2005: Unfinished Business, Happy People/U Saved Me and TP.3 Reloaded

The 2004 tour titled The Best of Both Worlds for Unfinished Business (Kelly's second collaboration with Jay-Z), was plagued by tension between the stars, with Kelly reportedly showing up late or not at all to gigs.[66] Kelly complained that the touring lights were not directed towards him and allegedly assaulted the tour's lighting director.[66] Jay-Z eventually removed Kelly halfway through the tour, after a member of Jay-Z's entourage pepper sprayed Kelly[67] on October 29, 2004.[68] Tyran (Ty-Ty) Smith was charged with assault, but took a plea deal for disorderly conduct.[68] Kelly launched a $75-million lawsuit against Jay-Z for removing him from the tour; Jay-Z's counter suit was dismissed by a judge.[69]

Kelly released Happy People/U Saved Me in 2004[70] and TP.3 Reloaded in 2005.[71]

2006–2008: Double Up, Studio work and "I Believe"

Kelly's other single from Double Up titled "Rise Up" was a tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. The song was released as a digital download May 15, 2007. Proceeds were donated to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund to help family members of the victims of the shootings.[72]

Kelly began his Double Up tour with Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole and J. Holiday opening for him. After two shows, promoter Leonard Rowe had Ne-Yo removed from the tour because of a contract dispute. However, Ne-Yo alleges that the reason for the dropout was because Ne-Yo believes he received a better response from critics and fans, even though he performed at just two shows. Ne-Yo filed a lawsuit against Rowe Entertainment. Kelly was not mentioned in the lawsuit. In December 2007, Kelly failed to appear at another preliminary court hearing on his case due to his tour bus being held up in Utah.[73] The judge threatened to revoke Kelly's bond, but eventually decided against it. In 2008, Kelly released a rap track titled "I'm a Beast" in which he coarsely attacked his detractors, yet did not name the subjects of the song.[74]

In 2008, Billboard reported that Kelly had plans to release his newest album titled 12 Play: Fourth Quarter in the summer of that year but the album was postponed. Billboard named Kelly among the most successful artists ever for its 50th Anniversary List.[75] In the spring, the promotional single "Hair Braider", peaked at No. 56 on Billboard's R&B chart. On July 28, the entire album leaked online.[76]

2009: Untitled, Africa

In in February 2009, Kelly announced that he was working on a new album called Untitled[77] with a projected release date of September 29.[78] In June 2009, he released his first mixtape, The Demo Tape (Gangsta Grillz) presented by DJ Skee and DJ Drama.[79]

Kelly headlined the Arise African Fashion Awards in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 20, 2009.[80] He performed in Cape Town, followed by Nigeria as part of the annual ThisDay music and fashion festival in July. , In January 2010, Kelly performed in Kampala, Uganda. "I'm very excited about my first visit to Africa, I've dreamed about this for a long time and it's finally here", Kelly said in a statement. "It will be one of the highlights of not only my career but my life. I can't wait to perform in front of my fans in Africa—who have been some of the best in the world."[81]

2010–2012: Epic, Love Letter, throat surgery, and Write Me Back

Kelly performed at the 2010 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony on June 11, 2010.[82] In an interview in the September 2010 issue of XXL magazine, Kelly said he was working on three new albums (Epic, Love Letter, and Zodiac) which he described as "remixing himself".[83]

In November 2010, Kelly collaborated with several African musicians forming a supergroup known as One8. The group featured 2Face from Nigeria, Ali Kiba from Tanzania, Congolese singer Fally Ipupa, 4X4 from Ghana, hip-hop artist Movaizhaleine from Gabon, Zambia's JK, Ugandan hip-hop star Navio and Kenya's Amani, the only female in the group. The first release from the group was "Hands Across the World" written and produced by Kelly.[84][85]

Kelly's tenth album Love Letter, released on December 14, 2010, included 15 songs, one of which was Kelly singing You Are Not Alone, a track Kelly originally wrote for Michael Jackson. The first single "When a Woman Loves" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.[9]

At the 2011 Pre-Grammy Gala in Los Angeles, Kelly performed a medley of hits and in March 2011, Kelly was named the #1 R&B artist of the last 25 years by Billboard.[86][12]

On July 19, 2011, Kelly was admitted to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago to undergo emergency throat surgery to drain an abscess on one of his tonsils, and was released on July 21, 2011.[87] He cancelled his performance at the Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica that was scheduled for the following Friday. Johnny Gourzong, Sumfest Productions executive director, commented, "We are truly going to miss his presence on the festival."[88][89] On September 23, 2011, Variety confirmed that Kelly had signed on to write original music for the Sparkle soundtrack.[90]

In 2011, Kelly worked with writer David Ritz on an autobiography entitled Soulacoaster.[91]

In October 2012, after RCA Music Group announced it was disbanding Jive Records along with Arista Records and J Records, Kelly was set to release music on the RCA Records brand.[92][93]

Following his throat surgery, Kelly released "Shut Up" to generally favorable reviews: Spin magazine said, "Kelly taking aim at the haters who said "he's washed up, he's lost it." He hasn't. Dude's voice is in prime smooth R&B form".[94] On December 21, 2011, Kelly made a live appearance on The X Factor and gave his first performance after the surgery. Kelly revealed to Rolling Stone that he felt like he was "just starting out" and how the performance was a "wake up call" for him.[95]

In 2012, Kelly made a series of announcements including a follow-up to the Love Letter album titled Write Me Back, a third installment of the Trapped in the Closet and The Single Ladies Tour featuring R&B singer, Tamia.[96][97][98] In February 2012, Kelly performed "I Look to You", a song he wrote for Whitney Houston, at Houston's homegoing.[99]

2013–2016: Black Panties, The Buffet, and 12 Nights of Christmas

During 2013, Kelly continued his "The Single Ladies Tour". He performed at music festivals across North America, including Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, and Macy's Music Festival. On June 30, 2013, R. Kelly performed live at BET Awards Show singing hits as well as his new track "My Story" featuring Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz. The song was the lead single for Kelly’s twelfth studio album Black Panties.[100] released on December 10, 2013.[101] Writing for New York magazine, David Marchese stated that Black Panties "was like a dare to the world: After all that he’d been accused of, after avoiding conviction, could R. Kelly still get away with making sex-obsessed music?"[37]

In 2013, Kelly collaborated with several artists including Celine Dion, Mariah Carey,[102] Mary J. Blige,[103] and Jennifer Hudson.[104] In an interview with Global Grind in November, he described follow up work with Celine Dion after their number one single "I'm Your Angel" from 1998.[105] Kelly worked with singer Mariah Carey for her album "The Art of Letting Go".[102]

Kelly co-wrote and sang on Lady Gaga's song "Do What U Want" from her 2013 album Artpop, performing the duet with her on Saturday Night Live on November 16, 2013,[106] and at the 2013 American Music Awards.[107][37] He also collaborated with Birdman and Lil Wayne on the Rich Gang album's second single and on Twista's first single on his new album "Dark Horse".[108][109] On November 17, 2013 Kelly and Justin Bieber debuted a collaboration entitled "PYD".[110][111]

Kelly was featured on the soundtrack album of the film The Best Man Holiday with his song "Christmas, I'll Be Steppin'".[112]

Kelly stated his intention to tour with R&B singer Mary J. Blige on "The King & Queen Tour" prior to the Black Panties Tour while continuing to create segements of the hip hopera Trapped in the Closet.[113]

In July 2014, Kelly announced that he was working on a house music album.[114]

Kelly presented his first Christmas album, and fourteenth studio album, 12 Nights of Christmas, on October 21, 2016.[115]

Artistry

Musical style and influences

Kelly's music took root in R&B, hip hop and soul. He was influenced by listening to his mother, Joanne Kelly, sing. She played records by Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye, inspirations for Kelly. In reference to Hathaway, Kelly stated: "A guy like Donny Hathaway had a focused, sexual texture in his voice that I always wanted in mine. He had smooth, soulful tones, but he was spiritual at the same time."[116] Kelly was heavily influenced by Marvin Gaye's R&B Lothario image. "I had to make a 'baby-makin'' album. If Marvin Gaye did it, I wanted to do it", Kelly said.[117]

While Kelly created a smooth, professional mixture of hip-hop beats, soulman crooning and funk, the most distinctive element of his music is its explicit sensuality. "Sex Me", "Bump n' Grind", "Your Body's Callin'", and "Feelin' on Yo Booty" are considered to be examples, as their productions were seductive enough to sell such blatant come-ons. Kelly's crossover appeal was also sustained by his development of a flair for pop balladry.[42]

Vocal style and lyrical themes

Kelly's voice easily shifts from booming baritone to seductive alto.[3] Love and sex are the topics of the majority of Kelly's lyrical content, although he has written about a wide variety of themes such as inspiration and spirituality. Chicago Sun-Times reporters Jim DeRogatis and Abdon Pallasch observed about the contrasting themes: "... the image he liked to project was that of the "R&B Thug"... bringing the streetwise persona of the gangsta rapper into the more polite world of R&B."[118] Kelly expressed that he writes from everyday experiences and prides himself on being versatile. Larry Khan, senior vice president of Jive's urban marketing and promotion, said that Kelly's musical compass is second to none.[119] DeRogatis and Pallasch reported that at concerts where Kelly would go from singing "Like a Real Freak" to "I Wish": "Many fans found these abrupt shifts between the transcendent and the venal, the inspirational and the X-rated jarring."[118]

Sexual abuse allegations

Illegal marriage

Kelly had been introduced to a promising young singer from Detroit named Aaliyah by her uncle, Barry Hankerson, when she was 12 years old.[120] During Kelly's 2021 criminal trial for sex trafficking and racketeering, a witness testified that Kelly had sexual contact with Aaliyah starting when she was 13 or 14 years old.[121][122] Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah's first album, Age Ain't Nothing but a Number in 1994.[123] On August 31, 1994, Kelly illegally married his 15-year-old protégée Aaliyah in a secret ceremony in Cook County, Illinois.[120][124] Kelly's tour manager, Demetrius Smith, admitted he facilitated the wedding by obtaining falsified identification for Aaliyah which listed her as 18 years of age.[125] In 2019, a contemporaneous video surfaced showing R. Kelly stating—less than a year before the marriage took place—that Aaliyah was 14 years old.[126] The marriage was annulled in February 1995 at the behest of Aaliyah's family by a Michigan judge.[127] Kelly and Aaliyah, however, both denied that the marriage occurred and even denied that their relationship had ever moved beyond friendship.[128] In May 1997, Aaliyah filed a lawsuit in Cook County to have the marriage record expunged, stating that she was underage at the time of marriage, had lied by signing the marriage certificate as an 18-year-old, and that she could not legally enter into marriage without parental consent. The expungement request was included in a lawsuit filed by Tiffany Hawkins, who sought to use the marriage documents in her case against Kelly. Hawkins later accepted a settlement of $250,000 from Kelly, subject to a confidentiality agreement, in 1998.[120] In 2019, federal prosecutors in New York charged Kelly with bribery related to the 1994 purchase of a fake ID for Aaliyah in order to obtain a marriage license.[129] Kelly, through his lawyers, admitted in 2021 to having had 'underage sexual contact' with Aaliyah.[130]

Child pornography and abuse charges

Kelly's Miami booking photo in January 2003

In 1998, Kelly settled a lawsuit with Tiffany Hawkins for $250,000 after she claimed Kelly had induced her to have group sex with other teenage girls when she was 15 years old.[131]

On February 3, 2002, a video surfaced allegedly showing Kelly engaging in sex with, and urinating on, an underage girl. The story, which was released by an unknown source, was sent to the Chicago Sun-Times, the newspaper that broke the story on February 8, 2002.[132] This news surfaced as Kelly was to perform at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics. Kelly said in interviews that he was not the man in the video.[133][134]

First criminal indictment

In June 2002, Kelly was indicted in Chicago on 21 counts of child pornography.[135] That same month on June 6, 2002, Kelly was arrested by the Miami Police Department on a Chicago arrest warrant at his Florida vacation home. He was released the following day after posting bail of $750,000.[136] The alleged victim refused to testify at the trial,[137] and a Chicago jury found Kelly not guilty on all 14 counts of child pornography in June 2008.[138][139]

While investigating the photographs reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Polk County Sheriff's Office conducted a search of Kelly's residence in Davenport, Florida. During the search, officers recovered 12 images of an alleged underage girl on a digital camera – wrapped in a towel in a duffel bag – which allegedly depicted Kelly "involved in sexual conduct with the female minor."[140] According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the girl in the images obtained from Kelly's Florida home also appears in the videotape which got Kelly indicted in Chicago.[141] Kelly was arrested on January 22, 2003 by Police investigators from Polk County and Miami-Dade County, at Miami's Wyndham Grand Bay Hotel on those charges of 12 counts of possession of child pornography.[142] Kelly was later released from a jail hours after on a bond posted of $12,000.[142] In March 2004, these charges were dropped due to a lack of probable cause for the search warrants.[143]

Alleged sex cult

Jim DeRogatis reported for BuzzFeed News on July 17, 2017, that Kelly was accused by three sets of parents of holding their daughters in an "abusive cult".[144] Kelly and the alleged victims deny the allegations.[145][146]

In March 2018, BBC World Service aired a documentary entitled R Kelly: Sex, Girls and Videotapes presented by reporter Ben Zand that explored the 2017 allegations.[147] This was followed up in May with the BBC Three documentary R Kelly: The Sex Scandal Continues which included interviews with the parents of the Savage daughters.[148]

Kelly was again accused of misconduct on April 17, 2018, by a former partner of his who claimed that Kelly "intentionally" infected her with a sexually transmitted disease. A representative for Kelly stated that he "categorically denies all claims and allegations".[14]

In a January 2019 BBC News article, a woman named Asante McGee whom Kelly had met in 2014 and taken to live with him some months later, said that she lived with not only Kelly alone, but with other women. She said: "He controlled every aspect of my life, while I lived with him." McGee later moved out on her own accord.[149]

Allegations of preteen girl molestation

In a divorce court filing unsealed in 2020, R. Kelly's former wife Andrea claims that R. Kelly was accused of molesting a preteen girl in 2009.[150]

Boycott and industry response

In May 2018, the Women of Color branch of the Time's Up movement called for a boycott of Kelly's music and performances over the many allegations against him. The boycott was accompanied by a social media campaign called Mute R. Kelly. In response, his management said that Kelly supports the movement in principle, but targeting him was "the attempted lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture".[151]

The music streaming service Spotify announced on May 10 that it was going to stop promoting or recommending music by both R. Kelly and XXXTentacion. Spotify stated, "We don't censor content because of an artist's or creator's behavior, but we want our editorial decisions—what we choose to program—to reflect our values."[152] Two days later, Apple Music and Pandora also announced that they will no longer be featuring or promoting R. Kelly's music.[153] Spotify received criticism from members of the music industry who expressed worries of a "slippery slope" of muting artists, since R. Kelly had not ever actually been convicted of any crime. Spotify ultimately reversed this decision.[154]

Allegations of music industry complicity

The Washington Post ran a lengthy article in May 2018, alleging that music industry executives had been aware of Kelly's sexually abusive behavior toward young women for years but did little or nothing about them due to his success as a performer and songwriter. As early as 1994, the newspaper reported, his tour manager had urged Jive Records' founder Clive Calder to tell Kelly he would not release the singer's records if he continued to have "incidents" with women after every concert he gave. Calder told the Post that he regretted not having done more at the time, saying "Clearly, we missed something."[125]

Former Jive president Barry Weiss told the newspaper that during 20 years with the label he never concerned himself with Kelly's private life and was unaware of two lawsuits filed against Kelly and the label by women alleging sexual misconduct, suits in which the label had successfully argued it was not liable. Larry Khan, another Jive executive who worked closely with the singer even after viewing the sex tape, likewise implied it was not the label's responsibility, and pointed to Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis as musicians whose labels continued to release and promote their records despite public awareness that they were involved with underage girls.[125]

Executives at Epic Records also took a similarly relaxed attitude towards allegations of Kelly's sexual misconduct, the Post claimed. In 2002, after he signed with the label, executive David McPherson allegedly avoided viewing a copy of a tape purportedly showing the singer having sex with an underage girl, even as he had warned Kelly's assistant that if it turned out to be Kelly on that tape, the label would drop him. McPherson did not respond to the Post's requests for comment. An intern with the label whose work suffered after she began a relationship with Kelly, ultimately costing her the position, settled with Epic for $250,000; Cathy Carroll, the executive she worked for, regularly rebuked her former subordinate for having an affair with a married man whenever the two met at social functions for years afterwards, and the damage to the woman's reputation led her to abandon her career in the music industry. Carroll told the newspaper the woman was "starstruck ... A lot of times it's not really the men."[125]

The Washington Post also suggested the labels were complicit in the sex-cult allegations from the previous summer's BuzzFeed piece. Employees at the studios where Kelly recorded were required to sign non-disclosure agreements and not enter certain rooms, which they said they believed were where Kelly made the women stay while he worked. Despite the agreements, the newspaper was able to publish screenshots of text exchanges where women in the rooms asked Kelly's assistants to let them out so they could go to the bathroom or get food. The newspaper also published pictures taken after Kelly had concluded a six-week session at a Los Angeles studio, paid for by his then-current label, RCA Records, showing a cup of urine sitting on a piano and urine stains on the wooden floor of another room.[125]

Musical response to allegations

Kelly released the 19-minute long "I Admit" on SoundCloud on July 23, 2018, as a response to his accusers.[155][156] The song does not contain any criminal admissions despite its title and chorus, which repeats the lyric "I admit it, I did it".[157][158] In "I Admit", Kelly denies allegations of domestic violence and pedophilia, asserting that they are matters of opinion.[158] Kelly also denounces Jim DeRogatis and repudiates his investigative report's claim of Kelly operating a "sex cult".[155] Addressing the Mute R. Kelly social media campaign, Kelly sings, "only God can mute me".[159][160] The song was criticized by reviewers, who described it as an act of trolling.[161][162] Andrea Kelly and Carey Killa Kelly, R. Kelly's ex-wife and brother, responded to "I Admit" with a remix and a diss track.[163][164]

Surviving R. Kelly

In January 2019, Lifetime began airing a six-part documentary series detailing sexual abuse and misconduct allegations against Kelly.[165] Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Loraine Ali observed that the series covered a range of in-depth interviews that "paint a picture of a predator whose behavior was consistently overlooked by the industry, his peers and the public while his spiritual hit was sung in churches and schools."[166]

Within two weeks, Kelly launched a Facebook page where he sought to discredit the accusers who appeared in the docuseries. Facebook removed the page for violating their standards as it appeared to contain personal contact information for his accusers.[167] The second season titled Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning premiered on January 2, 2020.[168]

Second series of criminal charges

On February 22, 2019, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in Illinois charged Kelly with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.[169] The charges allege that from 1998 to 2010, Kelly sexually abused four females, three of whom were teen minors at the time,[19] with evidence including a video provided by Michael Avenatti that allegedly depicts a new crime.[137] Kelly turned himself in on the day the charges were announced and was arrested by the Chicago Police Department and taken into custody.[170] The judge set a $1 million bond, and ordered Kelly to have no contact with any minor under 18 or alleged victim.[171] Kelly pleaded not guilty to all charges, which he called lies. He was released on bail after three nights in jail at Cook County.[172][173]

On March 6, 2019, Gayle King interviewed Kelly on CBS This Morning, where Kelly insisted on his innocence and blamed social media for the allegations.[174] During the interview, Kelly had an emotional outburst where he stood up, pounded his chest, and yelled.[175] Additionally, two women who reside with Kelly, whose parents say are brainwashed captives, declared love for Kelly and defended him during the broadcast.[176]

On July 11, 2019, Kelly was arrested on federal charges alleging sex crimes and obstruction of justice by U.S. Homeland Security investigators and NYPD detectives in Chicago.[20][177][178][179]

On July 12, 2019, federal prosecutors from New York and Chicago indicted Kelly on 18 charges, including child sexual exploitation, child pornography production, kidnapping, forced labor, racketeering, and obstruction of justice. He was first denied bail in October 2019 and denied bail release again in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.[180][181][182][183][184] Superseding indictments were filed in Chicago on February 13, 2020,[185] and in New York on March 13, 2020,[186] raising the total number of charges to 22. Kelly was incarcerated at Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago from July 11, 2019 to June 23, 2021.[187] Kelly's awaiting sentencing Chicago trial date was scheduled for September 13, 2021.[188] On June 23, 2021, Kelly was transferred to Metropolitan Detention Center, Brooklyn and Kelly's New York awaiting sentencing trial date was originally scheduled for August 9, 2021.[189][190] However on July 8, 2021, after Kelly appeared in Brooklyn federal court for the first time, his New York trial date was pushed over to August 18, 2021 to allow for Kelly to review materials with his new legal team, which he retained less than a month earlier.[191]

On August 5, 2019, the State's Attorney Office in Hennepin County, Minnesota charged Kelly with soliciting a minor and prostitution; prosecutors alleged that in July 2001, following a concert in Minneapolis, Kelly had invited a girl up to his hotel room and paid her $200 to remove her clothing and dance with him.[192][193]

In July 2021, Federal prosecutors asked the court to include alleged evidence of bribes, recordings of threats and more allegations of sexual abuse of minors, including an underaged boy he met at McDonald's, as pattern evidence in his trial.[194][195]

Criminal conviction

The federal trial began as scheduled on August 18, 2021. After weeks of testimony and entry of evidence, and after two days of deliberations, on September 27, 2021, the jury found Kelly guilty on nine counts including racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery, sex trafficking, and a violation of the Mann Act. The judge ordered that Kelly remain in custody pending sentencing, which was set for May 4, 2022.[196][25][197]

After the jury delivered their verdict, women's rights attorney Gloria Allred, who represented several victims, stated that Kelly was the worst sexual predator she had pursued in her 47 year career of practicing law.[198][199][200]

Other legal issues

After a July 1996 brawl at a Lafayette, Louisiana health club involving Kelly and his entourage, Kelly was placed on a year's unsupervised probation starting August 13, 1997, after being found guilty of battery. One of the victims needed 110 facial stitches.[201] Also that year, a 20-year-old accused Kelly in civil court of having sexual relations with her when he was 24 and she was 15. Kelly settled the lawsuit in 1998 for $250,000, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.[120]

On April 8, 1998, Kelly was arrested on three misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct, including one charge on violating noise ordinance for playing his music extremely loud from his car.[202] Prosecutors from the district attorney's office dropped the first two charges on May 7 and the noise charge on July 22 that year.[203][204]

On March 6, 2019, Kelly was taken back to the Cook County Jail after failing to pay $161,633 in child support. On March 9, 2019, he was released after someone, who did not want to be identified, paid off the child support. His lawyer says he could not discuss the payment due to a gag order.[205]

Influence

R. Kelly performs in the "Mr. Show Biz Presents: The Light it Up Tour" of 2006

Kelly is considered to be one of the most successful R&B artists since the mid-1980s.[12] He is also one of the best-selling music artists in the United States, with over 30 million albums sold, as well as only the fifth black artist to enter the top 50 of the same list.[13] Rolling Stone magazine called him "arguably the most important R&B figure of the 1990s and 2000s."[206] Music executive Barry Weiss described Kelly as "the modern-day Prince, although there's a bit of Marvin Gaye in him, and a bit of Irving Berlin."[207]

In addition to his solo and collaboration success, Kelly has also written and produced several hit songs, such as "Fortunate" for Maxwell, "You Are Not Alone" for Michael Jackson, "G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T." for Changing Faces, "Bump, Bump, Bump" for B2K, and many more. R. Kelly has been compared to artists like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.[207]

Personal life

Kelly's mother, Joanne, died from cancer in 1993.[208]

In 1996, Kelly married Andrea Kelly, his former backup dancer and mother of his three children.[209][210] In 1997, he built a house in Olympia Fields. Andrea filed a restraining order against Kelly in September 2005 after a physical altercation, ultimately filing for divorce in 2006.[211] In January 2009, after separating in the fall of 2005, Kelly and his wife Andrea Kelly finalized their divorce after 11 years of marriage.[127][212]

Charity and donations

In 2007, Kelly released the song "Rise Up" for Virginia Tech after the 2007 school shooting, and donated the net proceeds to the families of the victims.[213]

In 2010, Kelly penned the song "Sign of a Victory" for the FIFA World Cup, with all proceeds benefiting African charities.[214] In 2011, he performed at a charity event in Chicago benefiting Clara's House, a now-shuttered (Jan 2018) facility designed to build employment, housing, health care, and education in the projects of Chicago.[215] In 2016, Kelly donated cases of water to the Flint water crisis.[216]

Honors and awards

Kelly has been awarded and nominated for multiple awards during his career, as a songwriter, producer, and singer. His awards include a Guinness World Record and three Grammy Awards.[9]

Discography

Studio albums
Collaboration albums

Filmography

Books

Tours

Headlining tours
Co-headlining tours
Promotional concerts

See also

References

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