Not Just Knee Deep: On R. Kelly, Problematic Artists & Them Being “Cancelled”

By:  H.T.

R. Kelly is back in the news again as he’s accused of having a cult of young (but of legal adulthood) women living with him in a “cult”.  This comes on the heels of the fact that R. Kelly for decades has been accused of pedophilia and even was allegedly seen in a sex tape having sex with a young girl.  I say alleged because, 1. he was acquitted of the case as they could not identify the girl and 2. I myself have never seen the tape nor have ANY desire to see it.  In the chance it’s true that she was underage, I at that point will have viewed child pornography, making me no better than the accusations levied against him.

Do I think R. Kelly is a pedophile?  Well, signs point to yes, but I can’t PROVE it.  All I know for a fact is that yes, he married Aaliyah when she was a minor and the marriage was annulled.  The Village Voice published an expose that while chilling, is clearly not enough to bring about NEW charges, and he was acquitted of the charges brought about by the sex tape.  Still, R. Kelly has at the very least come off like a dirty old man and the fact that even my own family in Chicago has heard of these accusations as being an omnipresent fact of the black community there has made it so I wouldn’t leave even my worst enemies children with him.

The thing we must consider is that the police should INVESTIGATE accusations of sexual misconduct, but this does not mean that said accusations alone, whether they be word of mouth, an article, tweets, or literally anything short of proof that you can take in a court of law and not have struck down by a judge for lack of credibility should be what puts someone away for such a heinous crime.  If you’re going to label someone of being a perpetrator of such an awful crime, prove it before potentially branding yourself a liar or someone a pariah.

But someone will read this and say, “So you’re saying we should just forget about all these accusations?”  No.  I’m saying that you have every right to have an opinion on this, or really any crime a person is accused of.  But it’s up to a JURY and a JUDGE to decide if this person goes away for said crime.  I say all this because of a growing phenomenon in the black community with artists.

Whenever an artist is in any way problematic, the idea is that because they have offended someone, they must be exiled out of the zeitgeist and make room for a less problematic artist.  The problem simply is that by the logic of this thought process, we would ultimately eliminate entire generations of black music essentially in the name of political correctness.

Fact is, fans of black artists KNOW they’re problematic.  Hell, there’s no way around it really.  James Brown beat women, Richard Pryor allegedly shot at a woman, Nina Simone was accused of child abuse, Bill Cosby said very critical (though somewhat accurate) things about the black community and is spending his potential final days on earth fighting rape charges, Marvin Gaye dated a minor, CeeLo Green was accused of and even defended drugging women’s drinks, Bob Marley left his wife for a white woman and wrote a song condemning homosexuality, and Prince spoke out against gay marriage.  The list goes on and on.

I say all this not because I want people to see them as innocent, but rather stop with the idea that by supporting the artists we are supporting their views.  Frankly, if every artist you listen to HAS to support your views, this may explain why Rihanna and Beyonce have such rabid diehard fans while Chrisette Michelle has to go sing for Trump just to make ends meet.

My ultimate fear with this is not that R. Kelly, or Katt Williams or Anthony Mackie or really any black performing artist won’t have a career, but rather that a mediocre artist WILL have a career just off not offending people.  For as much as people complain that rappers today are shit, you can’t tell me that the same people who say this would support a Lil Yachty type rapper for speaking to their politics, but shit on, say DMX or J. Cole who tries to bring lyricism and wordplay to rap because they’re problematic.

When it comes to R. Kelly, I believe that if you don’t want to listen to his music or buy tickets to his concerts, you have every right, but don’t be the musical equivalent to the cousin who goes on Facebook and writes long ass posts admonishing black people who celebrate the 4th of July, Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  No amount, and I mean NO amount of guilt, shaming or calling people problematic will shake the integrity of a fan who likes what they like and feels no need to apologize.

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