Can you overlook Robert’s teeny-bopper proclivities when the DJ spins his latest jam?
R. Kelly’s new album, Black Panties, is set to come out tomorrow, will you be buying a copy despite his sordid past?
The media does love a good comeback story, but this PR onslaught should strike anyone with any sort of memory as more than a little absurd. This is R. Kelly we’re talking about here. Sure, he’s sold over 50 million albums and been nominated for 24 Grammy Awards (winning three). He posed in a cornfield with his arms spread like wings in the music video for “I Believe I Can Fly,” which served as the theme to the celebrated children’s film Space Jam. And his sex-heavy anthems—“Bump n’ Grind,” “Your Body’s Callin’,” and “Ignition (Remix),” to name a few—are addictive as hell. His latest album, Black Panties, even features songs with the titles “Legs Shakin’,” “Crazy Sex,” and “Marry the Pussy.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m addicted,” Kelly recently told The Guardian, about sex. “It’s what the world do—they make love, they party, they have sex.”
But Kelly has a dark, dark past that’s long cast a pall over his artistic endeavors.
The stories began circulating in 1994. That year, it was revealed that Kelly, then 27, married his 15-year-old protégé Aaliyah in a secret ceremony, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. Aaliyah told the court she lied about her age on the marriage certificate, claiming she was 18, and the news broke shortly after the release of Aaliyah’s R. Kelly-produced debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number, whose title track was, ironically, written by Kelly. The Sun-Times reported that members of Aaliyah’s family were “enraged” when they learned of the nuptials, and that both Aaliyah and her family persuaded a judge to annul the marriage shortly thereafter. A source also told the paper that Aaliyah ended all contact with Kelly after the annulment.
“When R. Kelly comes up, she doesn’t even speak his name, and nobody’s allowed to ask about it at all,” a spokeswoman for Aaliyah told the Sun-Times, in 2000.
Aaliyah was one thing, but there was one bullet that was too big for Robert to dodge…
Then, in Aug. 2001, a woman named Tracy Sampson filed a civil suit against Kelly, claiming that she slept with Kelly when she was 17, reported the Sun-Times.
“During my relationship with Robert Kelly, I lost my virginity to him,” Sampson said in her suit, according to the Sun-Times. “I was lied to by him. I was coerced into receiving oral sex from a girl I did not want to have sex with. I was often treated as his personal sex object and cast aside. He would tell me to come to his studio and have sex with him then tell me to go. He often tried to control every aspect of my life including who I would see and where I would go.” Kelly settled with Sampson for an undisclosed sum.
Things got even more graphic the following February when a video surfaced that allegedly showed Kelly engaged in sex with, and urinating on, an allegedly underage girl. The 26-minute, 36-second videotape was anonymously sent to then music critic Jim DeRogatis at the Sun-Times, and the news came just before Kelly was set to perform at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics. The tape was then somehow bootlegged and ended up online. It also became a popular bootleg that was sold on street corners, reported MTV News.
“The girl in the video, now 17, was identified by her aunt, who said that her niece would have been 14 at the time the tape was made, based on her appearance,” reported the Sun-Times. “Kelly can also be heard on the tape referring to the girl by her first name.”
Kelly was eventually indicted in June 2002 in Chicago on 21 felony counts of child pornography (later reduced to 14 counts), reported MTV News. The singer faced up to 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine if convicted, and would have to register as a sex offender.
“There’s things that people have done in their lives that they regret, and I’m no different,” he told MTV News. “I’m a human being, and I want people to know that I’m no angel here, but I’m no monster either. I’m no guy that would do this.”
Since that time The Arr-ah has put out numerous albums and scored a gang of hit records that people have twerked and turnt up to for more than a decade.
So does that mean it’s all good?