In a deeply disturbing, but perhaps not altogether shocking, Buzzfeed exposé by Jim DeRogatis, parents of young women have come forward alleging that R&B icon R. Kelly has their daughters captive in a sexually abusive cult.
For years, allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R. Kelly. In 2008, Kelly was acquitted on charges of child pornography after a tape was leaked to DeRogatis, then a reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times.
The details in DeRogatis’ Buzzfeed exposé are pretty scary.
A series of interviews with parents and women that used to be involved with R. Kelly reveal the R&B artist to be a predator that takes advantage of young women trying to seek tutelage from the “I Believe I can Fly” star.
One parent details how a relationship that began over a supposed musical mentorship soon became something far more pernicious.
“When we got to go backstage with R. Kelly, we stayed there over two hours. One-on-one, with just me and my daughter and him. We went back to talk about the music. He listened to her CD. He was going to help her with her CD, and I was really impressed with him at first, because I have always been an R. Kelly fan.”
The parent went on,
“In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her. It didn’t really hit home. Even with the Aaliyah situation, now that I think about it, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number’ … but you don’t think about that. You grew up with the song, and you like the song.”
The reference to Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number, a song and debut album by the late great R&b artist Aaliyah that was written and produced by R. Kelly when Aaliyah was 14.
R. Kelly and Aaliyah were illegally married when Aaliyah was only 15.
The Buzzfeed piece is pretty harrowing stuff, including phone recordings and numerous details of abuse and manipulation by R. Kelly over the years.
R. Kelly allegedly has roughly 7 women in his circle. He monitors what they eat, when they can go to the bathroom, wash themselves, what they look like (even paying for plastic surgery), and restricts them from speaking to their parents.
While the parents interviewed in the piece have gone to the police in Georgia and Illinois multiple times, the legal age of consent in those states is 16 and 17 respectively so no criminal charges can be filed.
For his part, R. Kelly has denied the allegations and his civil lawyer Linda Mensch emailed Buzzfeed a response to the exposé.
“We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life. He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.”
For all the gory details, read the entire Buzzfeed piece here.