Warning: Some of the discussion in this blog post will be sexually suggestive.
Surviving R. Kelly.
I didn’t watch all of it, but what I saw made me ashamed, disgusted and afraid.
Ashamed because I can name ten R. Kelly songs right off the top of my head that have been my jams at the time. I remember when Aaliyah first came out. She was only a couple of years older than me, and even then I was confused at how sultry she was. It never seemed to be an appropriate portrayal of a teen girl. A few days ago I Googled, for the first time ever, the lyrics to “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number”, penned by none other than the self-proclaimed “Pied Piper” of R&B himself for her, and I straight up got a headache. What grown man would write such lyrics for a fifteen-year-old girl?
“Age ain’t nothing but a number, throwing down ain’t nothing but a thang,
This something I have for you, it’ll never change.
Age ain’t nothing but a number, throwing down ain’t nothing but a thang,
This something I have for you, it’ll never change.
Take my hand, and come with me,
Let me show you to ecstasy.
Boy be brave, don’t be afraid,
Cause tonight we’re gonna go all the way…”
I also remember being disturbed by Aaliyah’s vocals on the remix to “Your Body’s Calling”…
“Boy my body’s calling you, so do what you gotta do,
Are you hungry? Do you want to eat?”
Never mind him gazing at her from a distance on her first album cover… I understand that he wrote the songs and all and produced the album, but WHY did he have to be on the album cover??? Why was he in her videos, doing interviews with her wearing the same outfit? It was odd then, but I obviously didn’t give it as much headspace as I should have.
After awhile shame set in. Shame that I allowed myself to overlook the deplorable actions of a predator because he made some decent music. As many others have pointed out over the last week, dude has basically admitted to such in his lyrics. Seems Like You’re Ready (to go all the way? Doesn’t that sound like a grown man propositioning a young girl?)?
Anger and confusion followed. Anger because I spent several days perusing random social media feeds and comments sections to see how R. Kelly stans would defend someone who probably wouldn’t pee on them if they were on fire (on second thought, he probably would). I was not surprised to see the various victim-blaming comments, but they did tick me off. Even if a little girl is “fast” (that is a widely-known term applied to Black girls. I’ve never heard a Black boy be referred to as “fast”. I’m not sure if the term is used in other cultures) it is incumbent upon adults to know to back the heck off. Teenagers are hormonal, impulsive, curious, and not always forward-thinking. No adult should willingly prey upon that. As a matter of fact, I don’t even understand the concept of being attracted to someone that young. I am 37. Legally, an 18-year-old boy is fair game to me at this point. But when I see 18-year-olds, I think of them with the affection that I do my son, not a lover. I couldn’t even see myself with a 25-year-old.
People were also asking where these girls’ parents were during this, and I must admit I have the same questions. At the end of the day, the only people to blame is the person who committed the crime (R. Kelly) and his band of enablers. But I tried to imagine if a grown man approached me about possibly helping to mentor me if I was a 15-, 16, or 17-year-old burgeoning singer. Steve Smith would have been all over him like white on rice. No way would he ever have left me alone with R. Kelly, and had R. Kelly put those lyrics in front of my face to sing my dad would have burned the studio down.
Lastly, people were questioning why the surviving women took so long to come forward. To those who asked, my reply is, “because of people like you”. People are willing to overlook a tape, multiple women telling similar stories that show a pattern of behavior, the statements from his own family members (his younger brother and ex-wife appeared on the documentary, and, facing pressure, R. Kelly’s estranged daughter released a brief statement calling her own father a “monster” and reminding people that she grew up in the house with him), the marriage to an underage Aaliyah, and his song lyrics because he can put together catchy hooks. It is absolutely astounding.
Confusion… as to how this did go on for so long. How is it that so many adults in R. Kelly’s employ were willing to not only overlook his behavior but contribute to it, aid and abet it? Going and soliciting underage girls for him? Securing false documents for him to marry Aaliyah when you should have been calling the flipping police? R. Kelly had his handlers so well trained that he didn’t even need to hide his despicable behavior. How do those people sleep at night???
It made me afraid. Money talks. None of those people said no to R. Kelly as long as he was signing their paychecks (the guys that were getting the girls for him, that is). I just wonder how you get to a point where you can turn a blind eye to crime. Trafficking is big here in Michigan. It makes me even more anxious about my children growing up among this mess of a world. Obviously for the right price people will do anything to kids.
At this point R. Kelly has denied all of the allegations, although his denials are not going over well in the court of public opinion. I believe the women, and although I stopped listening to his music awhile ago, will no longer be complicit and support this dude in any way.