On the list of “questions we did not see coming ten years ago”, this one is probably near the top. Or maybe we should have seen it coming, given a string of arrests in a three year period concerning possession and creation of child pornography. He was charged with several counts of both and was allowed to walk free on both occasions when the judge determined that the prosecution could not prove the subject was a minor or that the prosecution had enough evidence.
So here we are, over fifteen years later, asking ourselves about where R Kelly finds himself. And no matter when you read this article and regardless of what the actual answer is, the correct answer is “probably”.
Who is R Kelly?
Born Robert Slyvester Kelly in 1967, R. Kelly is an American singer, musician, and producer who is famous for mixing R&B, gospel music, and hip hop together over his three decade career. His first studio album, 12 Play, was released in 1993, and he has released a total of fourteen solo studio albums and three collaborative albums, one of which was released with Jay-Z in 2004.
His music has garnered much attention, and he gets his influences first from his mother, then from artists that she used to play around the house like Marvin Gaye. He develops music with very explicit sensuality inherent in the lyrics, and his main topics are love and sex. His combination of soulful R&B with more modern hip hop really struck a chord. This is apparent in the fact that he has won two American Music Awards, a BET Award for Best Male R&B artist, 12 Billboard Music Awards, and three Grammys.
What are His Most Famous Songs?
Some of R. Kelly’s most noticeable hits are songs he recorded for movies, TV shows, or other produced media. Some notable examples include:
- “I Believe I Can Fly”, a 1998 song written for Space Jam, the Motion Picture. This song has been in countless other movies but was originally produced for Space Jam, but now it has almost reached meme status.
- “Ignition (Remix)”, originally released in 2002 on the album Chocolate Factory and was featured in Love Don’t Cost a Thing and Soul Plane.
- Bump n’ Grind, released on January 25, 1994 as a single on the album 12 Play and was featured in several films including American Reunion and Project X.
Some of his biggest hits that were not included in movies or TV are:
- “I Believe”, initially released on the Osmosis Jones soundtrack but used during President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
- “Step in the Name of Love (Remix)” was released on Chocolate Factory and reached #1 on the R&B charts.
- “Happy People” is the headline single for the 2004 double-album Happy People/U Saved Me and made it to #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
R. Kelly’s Legal History
As mentioned above, R. Kelly’s past has been riddled with accusations and arrests all stemming from various kinds of sexual crimes. He has developed a rather consistent pattern of abusing women either sexually, emotionally, or both, and has had several women come out and continue to accuse him of assaulting them over the past few years. After being arrested more than once in the early 2000s, he has been arrested several times again in the past few years on several federal sex trafficking charges, including child abuse imagery and obstruction of justice to be added onto the more than twenty sexual offenses he already pled not guilty to.
For two decades, he has been in the spotlight not just for his music but for his misconduct and sexual abuse patterns. Why is the spotlight just now returning?
Surviving R. Kelly
Surviving R. Kelly is the Netflix documentary that delves into the lives and stories of the women that have been affected by R. Kelly’s actions and tells the true story of his abusive past. Even his own daughter has cut him off. Buku Abi, born Joann Kelly, posted on Instagram at the beginning of 2019 saying that she has not seen or spoken to her father in several years, calling him a “monster” and a “terrible father”.
The documentary interviews several women, including his current or most recent girlfriends, and the majority of them have nothing but horror stories to tell of his actions and the ways that they were treated. Since the documentary was released, women have been “coming out of the woodwork” to tell their horrific experiences involving the artist.
Sexual Abuse Within the Hip Hop Community
The MeToo movement has opened many peoples’ eyes to how vast the reports of sexual abuse and assault are throughout this country. All throughout the media, whether it is visual, auditory, or even written, people are claiming to be sexually abused. This is no different in the Hip Hop community, and R. Kelly is not the only person to have been accused of such acts. Hip Hop pioneer DJ Afrika Bambaataa (mentioned in Jay Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind”) was accused of sexually abusing several young men in the 1980s, just to name one prominent figure. It does not take much research to find several more instances of similar acts.
R. Kelly’s Incarceration and Bid for Release
- Kelly has been incarcerated for over a year now, and according to an article written for Billboard, it doesn’t really look like that is going to change. He has repeatedly been denied bail in his sexual abuse case and his defense is not gaining much ground even during the COVID-19 pandemic. His most recent denial for bail was on May 15th, when a federal judge in New York rejected his request for release. The justification is that he may attempt to threaten or tamper with witnesses, which he was alleged to have done before his 2008 trial in Cook County.
With as many charges as he has and with the history of legal problems that he has, it will be a surprise if he is released any time remotely soon. He is currently facing between ten years to life for his alleged crimes and if he is found guilty, he will most likely be looking at a very long sentence to serve.
So the short answer is, yes, the artist R. Kelly is currently in jail. He is incarcerated in Chicago within the Metropolitan Correctional Center downtown and has been there for over a year. Currently it does not look like he will be released any time soon, especially with a judge saying that his diagnosis of prediabetes did not warrant enough danger for him to be released on concerns of contracting or being at higher risk for the coronavirus disease.
However, if he is granted bond, it will most likely be under very high restrictions on communication, movement, and activity in order to dissuade him from tampering with witnesses or evidence as he was alleged to have done during his earlier court cases in the 2000s.