By Theodore Mattheiss
Robert Kelly, better known as R. Kelly, has prospered as a musician for decades despite a shadow of sexual abuse and pedophilia claims hanging over him, but the release of a docu-series titled “Surviving R. Kelly” on Jan. 3 has triggered a new wave of accusations which may finally end his career and land him in prison.
Now the big question is, what took so long? Kelly has been surrounded by scandal and claims of sexual abuse, including against minors, since the 1990s.
In 1994, at age 27, he married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah Haughton, though the marriage was annulled a year later when it was discovered that she lied about her age on the marriage certificate. In 1996, Kelly was sued for emotional distress by Tiffany Hawkins, another woman whom Kelly began a sexual relationship with when she was 15. It went on for three years.
He was sued by a former intern in 2001, who claimed he manipulated her into a sexual relationship when she was 17. He was sued again in 2002 by a woman who claimed Kelly got her pregnant while she was underage. He was famously charged in 2002 with making child pornography that featured, among other things, Kelly urinating on a minor.
And yet, all the while, his career thrived. During the six years it took for the child pornography case to go to trial, Kelly released a hugely successful album titled “Trapped In The Closet,” and was even nominated for an award by the NAACP as a result (though the nomination did stir controversy).
A criminal investigation was opened against R. Kelly in Georgia on Jan. 8 as a direct result of the accusations made in the docu-series about his alleged history of sexual misconduct. The series and investigation prompted two more women to reach out to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office with claims that they were subjected to “inappropriate conduct” from Kelly, according to The Cut.
Now the #MeToo movement is giving him the retribution he’s deserved for so long. Musicians like Lady Gaga are apologizing for working with Kelly, and pulling collaborations with him from streaming services. Concert venues and his record label are shutting him down. His own daughter called him a monster.
Why has it taken until now for the public to come down on R Kelly with the appropriate amount of force? Kelly has spent decades wrapped in the controversy created by all of these court cases, allegations, and questionable situations he’s put himself in.
In any case, it’s a welcome development to see Kelly being subjected to the sort of public comeuppance he’s currently receiving. With any luck, he’ll soon be found guilty of the wrongdoings that so many claim he perpetrated, and he’ll be locked away, unable to hurt anybody else.