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R Kelly, the disgraced R&B star on trial for sex crimes


  • R. Kelly, who has been imprisoned without bail since July
    2019, will finally go on trial in Brooklyn this month.
  • The first raft of charges against Kelly, spanning from 1994
    to 2018, include racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery
    and forced labour.
  • For years the 54-year-old endured as one of R&B’s top
    stars, even as he faced a slew of sex abuse allegations.

A Chicago native who soared to global celebrity on a burst
of megahits in the 1990s, for years, R. Kelly endured as one of R&B’s top
stars, even as he faced a slew of sex abuse allegations.

The three-time Grammy winner, born Robert Sylvester Kelly,
has sold over 75 million records globally, making him one of the most
commercially successful R&B musicians ever, with hits like I Believe
I Can Fly
.

But Kelly’s success always included an asterisk: rumours of
criminal sexual activity swirled for decades, and the artist periodically
settled sex crime allegations out of court.

In a pre-#MeToo world that saw victims far less empowered,
Kelly, 54, acted with impunity, say multiple indictments.

Speaking to GQ in 2016, the artist suggested accusers were
merely out to get him.

“I’m not, you know, this innocent guy with a halo over
his head. No, I love women,” the artist told the magazine.

“Do I like to sleep with underage girls? Absolutely
not. I’ve said it a million times. But do I have people trying to destroy my
career? Absolutely.”

Child porn acquittal 

Born January 8, 1967, in Chicago, Kelly was the third of
four children raised by his mother.

In his 2012 memoir, he describes sexual experiences as early
as eight years old, saying he sometimes watched older couples have sex, and was
instructed to photograph them.

He said an older woman raped him, also when he was eight,
and that an older man in the neighbourhood sexually abused him when he was a
pre-teen.

Kelly has long been rumoured to be illiterate, despite 14
solo albums to his name.

His former attorney said Kelly writes in phonetic notes
rather than standard English.

Jive Records signed him in 1991, after a label executive
reportedly heard him singing at a barbeque in Chicago.

Kelly released his first solo album, 12 Play in
1993, featuring sexed-up jams such as Bump N’ Grind – a record that
topped the R&B charts for nine weeks.

Despite his tumultuous personal life – including his
ultimately annulled marriage to 15-year-old protege Aaliyah, which raised
eyebrows – Kelly’s fame skyrocketed.

But in the early 2000s, Chicago reporter Jim DeRogatis
anonymously received two tapes that appeared to show Kelly having sex with
young girls, the second of which led to the artist’s indictment on child
pornography.

After years of trial delays, during which he continued to
tour and record, Kelly was acquitted on all counts.

‘Mute R. Kelly’

The accusations had little impact on his fame.

From 2005 to 2012, Kelly wrote, produced, directed and
performed in the notorious “hip hopera” entitled Trapped in the
Closet
, an absurdist tale of sex and lies that bewildered and impressed
critics.

“Is R. Kelly a joke or a genius?” a Pitchfork
critic wrote when the melodrama first came out. “Does he really expect us
to forget his recent… unpleasantness, or does he just not care what we
think?”

In July 2017, BuzzFeed published a lengthy investigation by
DeRogatis, which alleged Kelly was operating a “sex cult” and holding
six women hostage between Chicago and Atlanta.

At the same time, two women in Atlanta, Kenyette Barnes and
Oronike Odeleye, founded the “Mute R. Kelly” movement that encouraged
boycotting his music.

“Someone had to stand up for Black women,” Odeleye
said at the time.

On trial

In January 2019, a Lifetime docu-series again said the quiet
part out loud, interviewing women who cast Kelly as manipulative, violent and
hyperfocused on young girls, who he allegedly demanded call him
“daddy.”

This time, the renewed scrutiny appeared to prompt a sea
change: artists including Lady Gaga apologised for past collaborations with
Kelly, and his label dropped him.

As outrage boiled over, fresh legal action brewed.

Not long after Chicago prosecutors levelled ten counts of
aggravated criminal sexual abuse against him, federal prosecutors in both
Illinois and New York indicted Kelly in 2019.

Disgraced, on the defensive and reportedly facing financial
ruin, Kelly, who has been imprisoned without bail since the federal charges
came out, this month will finally go on trial in Brooklyn.

The first raft of charges against Kelly, spanning from 1994
to 2018, include racketeering, sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping,
bribery and forced labour.


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