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Posted under: Opinion

Why I Believe R. Kelly’s Sexual Allegations Prove Separating The Art From The Artist Is A Dangerous Choice

"Claims of separating the two disregards the dynamism of wealth, fame and power birthed by music."

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The cases against R. Kelly have now strengthened, thanks to his former team who have submitted over 20 videos of R. Kelly engaging in sexual intercourse with female minors. The 20-year-old allegations against R. Kelly has elicited differing responses from his fan base. While many fans understand the depths of sexual abuse and ceased their support of Kelly, there are other fans on the opposite side of that spectrum.

Some fans have defended Kelly against the allegations with rebuttals including concerns of the justice system’s agenda against Black men and separating the artist from their actions.

Pause! What?

Claims of separating the two disregards the dynamism of wealth, fame and power birthed by music.

While in Black culture, we do not possess the worldly privilege of our white counterparts, Black wealthy, famous and powerful figures do. It is undeniable that R. Kelly is an extraordinary talent; this same talent gave birth to power.

We, including myself, have all jammed to some of his greatest hits that have inspired us and connected to our humanness through erotic music — "I Believe I Can Fly," "Happy People" and "Step In The name of Love," along with "Sex Me," "Bump n’ Grind" and "Feelin’ On Your Booty." But when the flood of sexual misconduct allegations were made against R. Kelly — many of the narratives sounding nearly identical — I didn’t hear the latter list of tunes the same as I previously did. My mind wandered; I self-inquired: Who exactly is our musical genius referencing in these songs? Knowing the answer to my own question, I instantly felt sick to stomach.

It was far before Lifetime’s 2019 groundbreaking, six-part docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, that I decided to cancel R. Kelly. I could not stomach enjoying the music of an artist with the possibility of him recounting moments of statutory rape through lyrics. Many more fans all over the world denounced R. Kelly in outrage after hearing the soul-stirring, personal stories of the now adult women who highlighted in great detail Kelly’s sexual misconduct with them as minors. While some fans condemned Kelly, many maintained their fandom of his music.

I was astounded fans could not see that the same music they still support is precisely what produced the wealth, fame, power and privilege that is synonymous with R. Kelly’s name. This is a necessary conversation we must have, and hold those accountable who are choosing to “support the artist, not the person.” If you truly believe Black Lives Matter, with specificity to Black women, you understand that the art creates the person. The reality is, the “average Joe” cannot do what R. Kelly has done; the average Joe does not have the musical prowess to wow us with; the average Joe does not have the wealth; the average is not privileged; the average Joe is simply not Robert Kelly – the man who has used his gift of music to coerce and further ravage the most underappreciated, disrespected, unprotected and neglected woman in America — the Black woman.

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