Defending R. Kelly Ain't It.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Defending R. Kelly Ain’t It.

January 23, 2019 by  
Filed under Ent., Music, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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( Whether it’s on social media or conversations offline people are weighing in on R. Kelly. The Surviving R. Kelly documentary really did a number on the R&B legend’s reputation and that’s concerning.

There’s Nothing New Here With R. Kelly

No, this isn’t a “Leave R. Kelly alone!” stance, oh hell no. The concerning thing here is that it took this long for something to be done. He’s parted ways with RCA because RCA doesn’t want that nonsense in its stable, he’s apparently threatening to reveal dirt on others in the industry.

Nothing surprising there, the music industry’s been grimy since there was a music industry. At the fairly mild end artists aren’t paid and, in the middle, you have artists don’t get to hold on to the rights of songs they wrote and/or performed. Let’s not forget about genres being gentrified and the artists who founded these genres and fanbase of color largely abandoning it (see rock n’ roll).

Then you have the far, extremely seedy end. You have artists spiking drinks, raping fans, and holding women captive. That’s basically the scale and it applies to most form of entertainment but since we’re talking about the Piped Piper of R&B, let’s focus on the music end.

For decades, people have known what R. Kelly does and it was in the news prior to the Lifetime documentary. There are accounts from the early 1990s of him being a creep—for lack of a better word.  Despite the allegations and early accounts, people still mostly sided with R. Kelly.

“They Need To Leave That Man Alone”

As time went on, that support slowly began to erode but it was still a strong majority. I’ve even heard my mother say “They need to leave that man alone” when he was found not guilty in 2008. Not guilty of fourteen counts of child porn. There’s being Teflon or bullet proof then there’s collective heads in the sand on a case.

The thing with “They Need to Leave That Man Alone” is that he brings it on himself. Mind you, the same thing was a defense for Cosby. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” is a thing. Common sense dictates if you were held over the pot once before over questionable activity—whether you did it or not—you keep your nose clean going forward. You stay away from anything questionable or questionable adjacent.

This is a man who didn’t learn his lesson. I can see how someone would become overly confident after dodging several legal bullets. There are very few people who lucky to the point where nothing sticks. That means they have no loose ends, their victims and complicit associates are paid handsomely to be quiet, or where they get the best venue to be tried in each time.

So no, he doesn’t need to or deserved to be left alone. What he’s done is horrible and he won’t stop because he was never held accountable. If the last instance of someone doing something horrible pops up in the previous year, that person isn’t going to stop.

It’s Just A Strange Hill To Die On

All of this brings me to verbal defenders of one R. Kelly. This ain’t it. If you love the music, fine. It’s possible to separate the person from their art—although, it’s a very murky mess in this case. You can still respect his musical ability and say he’s a trash human being.

If you’re going to defend him—and honestly, we shouldn’t–don’t go for the most nonsensical defense. The prize defense I’ve heard was “Look, I put R. Kelly on and I get them panty draws.” It’s not even a defense, it’s a statement and something of a flex.

An extreme reach I’ve seen from a few brothers is defending him as a means of decrying the arrest and incarceration of Black men. Again, this ain’t it. The point is great but the case that brings us to this point? Take it back to the drawing board. As Huey pointed out in an episode of the Boondocks (about this same issue), he’s not going to be your martyr for a greater cause.

Let’s not even get into how in some cases, defending people doing trash things is defending behavior we may have engaged in or still engage in. That’s not saying every or even a chunk of his defenders have dabbled in rape, relationships with girls of the underaged variety, and unlawful imprisonment. You might never know based purely on their defense of someone but often times a hit dog will holler.

It’s A Low Bar

Defending pots and pans human beings is nothing new. After O.J got off, my coaches joked about it. When a male artist beats a woman people will come and defend that artist. There have been famous musicians who have held women captive and done some horrendous things to them.

When that artist passes away, we get a bunch of people—some who were complicit in letting that artist cook—coming out and telling us how they were “the kindest person I ever knew.” We might get that one person who says “X had their demons but I was proud to call them ‘friend.’” Weak but at least they vaguely acknowledged everything wasn’t all roses with this person. It’s not something I could muster a golf clap for but alright.

This is a guy who is very hard to defend and ultimately, the bar is very low in not doing so.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.


One Response to “Defending R. Kelly Ain’t It.”
  1. Anne says:

    Defending sexual predators who are black completely undermines the credibility of his defenders for the following reasons, First, it rewards his deviant behavior by absolving him of responsibility for his actions and blaming his victims. Second, in too many instances, it is a case of badly misplaced racial loyalty. Being pro-black STARTS with protecting the most vulnerable among us, namely our children. And the underage girls and young adults he is old enough to have fathered qualify. Third, putting celebrities on a pedestal is something rational adults should have left behind in adolescence. We do not know these folks personally. Fourth, his music reflects his perversion, do there is no way to separate his music from him. Fifth, since his victims are mainly if not entirely black, those who bring up white supremacy look especially foolish. This is not an area where that applies. Last but not least, the documentary that has laid bare the extent of his abuses nullifies any plausible deniability. In summary, it is important to differentiate between black victims and black victimizers in order to be taken seriously. He is a victimizer in spite of once having been victimized.

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