Can we finally stop listening to R. Kelly

Jackson Bayer, Columnist

Lifetime recently ran a six-part docuseries titled “Surviving R. Kelly,” which is something I hope most of you already know.

For those who aren’t familiar with the series or with R. Kelly himself, here’s a brief rundown: Kelly is one of the most successful R&B artists of the last quarter-century, influenced a generation of artists that came up after him and chances are you’ve heard his music even without knowing it.

He’s also been accused of sexual, physical and mental abuse against numerous women, some of whom were underage at the time of the abuse.

In 2017, (according to the BBC) Kelly was accused of trapping six women in a sex cult. In 2002, the infamous video allegedly showing Kelly having sex with and urinating on an underage girl surfaced (according to the BBC.) He is said to have secretly married fellow R&B star Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old (according to the BBC.) I could go on.

Kelly himself hasn’t gone to prison, and his career hasn’t suffered too much due to any allegations against him, no matter how disturbing.

“Surviving R. Kelly” has forced many people to finally face the awful things Kelly has been accused of (all of which he has denied), which I’m happy about, but it still makes me wonder: Why did it take this long for us to have a serious conversation about him?

Don’t get me wrong, there have long been critics of Kelly and efforts to rightfully bring him down, such as the 2018 #MuteRKelly movement, and Spotify removing his music from playlists, but nothing has seemed to slow him down, until now.

But why has it taken this long? Why have so many defended Kelly and allowed his behavior to go on throughout the years, including those in the music industry and even the Chicago Police Department, and why did it take a documentary of this magnitude to finally ignite a real conversation about him?

I can’t answer that question. I really can’t. Maybe it’s because his fans and the general public have long been able to “separate the art from the artist.”

It’s happened for countless other artists with disturbing personal lives, including recent examples like Xxxtentacion, Kodak Black and 6ix9ine.

I understand that artists, as people, should be given second chances to turn their lives around, but to sit idly by as someone of Kelly’s stature gets away with all kinds of abuse and manipulation towards dozens of women over a period of decades is just plain wrong.

It’s not even as if Kelly’s music itself is separate from his disturbing personal life; much of the content in his music reminds the listener of the allegations brought against him.

So what can we do about all of this? That’s a question I can answer: stop listening to Kelly’s music, and if you hear your friends or relatives listening to his music or defending him in any way, shut that down, too.

It’s time to end Kelly.

Jackson Bayer is a senior English and creative writing major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].