Can You Be #MeToo In The Streets And R Kelly Between The Music Sheets?
Can You Be #MeToo In The Streets And R Kelly Between The Music Sheets?

Can we separate the artist from his art? The answer is no.

In 1994, American singer and record producer R Kelly allegedly married Aaliyah, his 15-year-old protegee. The Chicago Sun-Times had reported that the marriage was annulled following intervention by Aaliyah’s family. Again, merely two years later, Tiffany Hawkins filed a suit against Kelly and his record companies, in which she alleged that the singer had been in a sexual relationship with her – a relationship that had caused her emotional damage and personal injuries. Hawkins also claimed that she was 15 when the relationship began.


In 2001, another suit was filed against him by a former intern Tracy Sampson who claimed that Kelly had been sexually intimate with her when she was 17. In 2002, the 51-year-old singer was indicted on child pornography charges, CNN reports, but he was acquitted in 2008.

R Kelly has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing but in the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, where we are increasingly becoming aware of how the rich and mighty get away with wrongdoing, such denials only fuel the anger and disdain. In fact, in July 2017, Buzzfeed published an article about a ‘cult’ where Kelly was reportedly holding women against their will.

In May, the CNN report further states, a 20-year-old woman claimed that the singer had given her alcohol, assaulted her and she had been left with an STD. Due to these multiple allegations, people believe that Kelly had been getting away because he is influential.

In his latest 19-minute song ‘I Admit’, Kelly seeks to answer his detractors but “structured as a confessional, the song is more of a defence of his behaviours and accusations against him”, writes Elahe Izadi for IOL.

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Decades of allegations against Kelly led to WOC, the women of colour branch of Time’s Up to support the #MuteRKelly campaign.


All of the above brings us to the question: Can we separate the artist from his art? The answer is no.

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When we support a problematic artist’s music/cinema/book, we are negating all the experiences that their victims have had to undergo. How can anyone enjoy somebody’s music knowing that the person has been repeatedly accused by multiple women of being predatory? Chris Brown admitted to busting open Rihanna’s lip and still continues to have a flourishing music career.


Remember that time folks were mad at Kanye West for saying slavery was a choice? People sure tweeted a lot about it but guess what? Kanye is still treated like a modern-day messiah and his records still sell like hot cakes. Everybody wants to be woke on Twitter but when it comes to a simple thing like deleting somebody’s music from their Apple playlist, it’s “let’s look at both sides” all of a sudden.

“We could’ve shut down R. Kelly years ago,” #MeToo founder Tarana Burke told VIBE in March 2018. “We don’t talk about [sexual violence]. We don’t do anything to deal with it as a community. We don’t look at sexual violence in our community as a social justice or community issue. [In communities of color] this culture of silence that we have is killing us.”

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It’s as simple as this – you cannot be #MeToo in the streets and R Kelly between the music sheets. Do better.


(Header credits: Flickr)

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