I'm not going to say much about R. Kelly because, at this point, on the seventeenth day of July in 2017, there's not much I can say about R. Kelly that hasn't already been said. And repeated. And reported on. And recounted through anecdote. And even said by me on this very space four years ago.
With other artists guilty of criminal behavior, there can be a certain cognitive dissonance that can happen when the art and the unseemly acts by the artist have no connection. R. Kelly’s music doesn’t allow for that. His art and his actions are irrevocably linked. They can not be unlinked. It’s like shoes and soles. Or Knick fans and disappointment. He makes crazy, nasty, deviant sex music because he’s a crazy, nasty sex deviant. These are not two separate parts of him.
And also because R. Kelly is who he is. A talented musician — a person actually considered by many to be the most talented contemporary musician — and a man who, for years, used his considerable wealth and influence and status to prey on young Black girls. And continues to do so.
The word evil isn't often employed when characterizing him, because using that term to describe someone so popular, talented, charismatic, and handsome seems counterintuitive. Troubled? Maybe. Conflicted? Perhaps. Complicated? Definitely. Evil, however, seems to be taking it too far. But the acts he committed are plainly and patently evil. Shit, while attempting to quantify evil is usually a fool's errand, there aren't many evils more evil than a rich and powerful man sexually violating poor and powerless girls. And then vaingloriously teasing us about it because he knows there's not much we can do about it.
Which is why today, on the seventeenth day of July in 2017, I can't help but wonder if fans of R. Kelly today in 2017 just might be evil too. Or, at the very least, evil adjacent. The fans upset that other people dare be disgusted by R. Kelly. The fans still paying hundreds of dollars to attend his shows. The fans who twist themselves into logical origami defending him, still. The fans who still say things like "R. Kelly can still get it" and "Those girls knew what they were doing." The fans who parade him at concerts and honor him at awards shows. (And yes, this includes the peers who still make music with him.) The fans completely aware of his misdeeds but still completely apathetic to and unaffected by them. The fans — all of them — so enamored with and attached to R. Kelly the artist and his songs about sex that no evil act committed by R. Kelly, the person, matters.
Perhaps evil is too strong of a word to describe someone conscious of it who remains intentionally indifferent to it and arrogant about the indifference. But I can't think of a better one. So if you can, please do.
If you're wondering why the above may have sounded vaguely familiar — like you've read it somewhere before — it's because, if you've been a VSB reader for at least two years, you probably have. I wrote pretty much this exactly same thing in 2015; the only edits where I updated the year from 2015 to 2017. I didn't change anything because — despite the horrific Buzzfeed story today about R. Kelly's multi-state cult and the several sex slaves caught in it (that line italicized to represent the WTF!!!-ness of this all) — nothing has changed. He is who he is. And now, in 2017, we have over two decades worth of evidence of his criminal and criminal-adjacent sexual behavior. He hasn't stopped because he has no incentive to stop. If anything, DeRogatis's report shows that he's just become better at it. A craftsmen who surpassed the ten thousand hours of practice master threshold.
R. Kelly is an evil man who has preyed on Black women and girls for 25 years now. Maybe longer. And will not stop until he's imprisoned. Or killed. If you still defend him and your fandom, that's your right I guess. Just admit that enjoying his music matters more to you than what he's done. And what he's doing. And what he'll continue to do.