The sexual misconduct allegations against R Kelly can be traced as far back as 1994 when he married the late R&B singer Aaliyah when she was only 15 years old.
The Guardian reports that R Kelly who was 27 years old at the time married Aaliyah with a forged marriage certificate that stated Aaliyah was 18 at the time.
Fast forward to late 2017, the campaign #MuteRKelly was started by Kenyette Tisha Barnes and Oronike Odeyle. These two women launched a petition directed at Sony, Live Nation, RCA Records, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, I Heart Radio, Radio One and all venues hosting R. Kelly’s concerts.
In May 2018, R Kelly’s music was reported to have increased in streaming numbers. Based on Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and other music platforms, the Associated Press reported that R Kelly’s music streams had already surpassed his 2017 and 2016 streaming numbers. AP report that in 2017 his weekly streams were 5 666 000 and in 2018 his music hit 6 674 000 weekly streams.
Rolling Stones reported that Spotify would stop featuring R. Kelly on its playlists, and that Apple Music and Pandora would also stop promoting the R&B singer.
But, soon after the Spotify announcement Variety reported that weekly streams for R Kelly increased my almost nearly 100 000.
A day after the premiere of the docuseries Surviving R Kelly, The Blast reported that the streams for the singer’s song, Ignition, increased by 16%.
Allegations against R Kelly range from sexual misconduct, statutory rape to child pornography. So why are people still supporting his music?
It’s expected that there would be decline in the support of his music, even though he has denied the allegations, but it seems that is not the case.
Questions about separating the artist from the art questions arose, some of R Kelly’s fans sympathised with him and some fan pages remain active.
In the midst of all of this there has between a handful of celebrities who have spoken out about the allegations against R Kelly, the most notable is John Legend who appeared on the docuseries.
I don’t listen to r kelly anymore. And I do miss listening to his music.— Pearl Thusi (@PearlThusi) January 4, 2019
But I’m an effort to support the movement fighting GBV - my daughter won’t ever know his music or contribute to Kelly’s legacy- financially or otherwise.
Meanwhile, our own local radio stations continue to have R Kelly's music playlisted on various shows and the man in question is also still promoting new music. He has announced a new single and promises his “day one fans” an album.
The persistent support of R Kelly and his music is a slap in the face not only for his victims, but other women who have experienced sexual violence. It also undermines the work of many social justice activists who have put themselves on the line to bring these issues to light.
More than anything, the manner in which the world at large has responded to the allegations against R Kelly once again proves the blasé attitude society often assumes when it comes to addressing - or at least attempting to empathise - with black girls' pain.
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