R. Kelly, one of R&B’s most genius, but most controversial stars, issued a PSA of sorts to his African-American fans on Thursday, urging them to purchase his 13th studio album, The Buffet.
The video below came after the crooner performed at The Soul Train Awards, an appearance many weren’t too happy to see given his past legal troubles stemming from sexual assault allegations involving underage girls.
The buzz around his album, out this Friday, hasn’t been as explosive as previous efforts. But with collaborations from popular artists like Jhene Aiko, Ty Dolla $ign and Lil Wayne, The Buffet’s sound is right in line with the current popular phenomenon “Trapsoul” – a blend of soulful vulnerable vocals and hip-hop swag.
In his Tyrese-like speech, Robert stresses how artists like Sam Smith, Adele, and other White singers are praised for their African-American R&B sounds and backed by millions who purchase their music. But it’s not really White artists who are blocking R. Kelly’s road to another top-selling album.
The Buffet is the first record the singer has released since the resurfacing of his sexual assault allegations in 2014. During his press run for the 2013 release Black Panties, an ill-advised Twitter Q&A revealed many were not over allegations that the singer engaged in group sex with girls as young as 15 years old. There was also the infamous 2002 sex tape that allegedly showed Kelly urinating in a teenager’s face. After years of hidden settlements and stories, Kelz was acquitted of all 14 charges of child pornography in 2008.
Despite reports about the singer’s cravings for intimacy with younger women (he was also accused in 2008 of having a relationship with his ex-publicist’s college-aged daughter) his fan base is just as loyal as ever. Sure, his social media following doesn’t boast colossal numbers like The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, or Trey Songz, but like his R&B counterparts, he’s returned to making music mostly about love making.
In a recent profile piece for Vulture, David Marchese spoke to fans outside of his September performance at New York’s Barclays Center. Many fans were dismissive of his past, while others claimed they weren’t aware of it. Kelly’s case hit the public eye before the explosion of the Internet, before Twitter, and before entertainment websites like TMZ existed. Another painful reminder is that many of the victims were young Black women who lived throughout inner cities in America, a demographic the general public notoriously ignores.
“I don’t think about what people say R. Kelly did do or he didn’t do,” says Charisse, a 38-year-old EMT in a red leather jacket. We’re standing outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn in late September. R. Kelly is playing here tonight, and in a few minutes, he’ll deliver a lewd and wildly entertaining show. “He don’t do anything lots of other men don’t do,” Charisse continues. “But because it’s R. Kelly, I’m supposed to be mad about it? There’s a lot of fast girls out there looking for a come-up.” She shrugs. “That’s reality.”
Tia, 34 and pregnant, is here too. She works in wealth management, and her husband is home with their young daughter. “The media overhypes everything,” she says.
If he was found guilty in court, that’s a different thing. But there’s life and there’s music, and I can separate the two.”
Her husband can’t. “He refuses to listen to R. Kelly,” she says. A 40-something man who’s been listening in and who won’t give his name comes up to me and says, “Innocent until proven guilty. This is America,” and walks away. Kenny is a 33-year-old real-estate agent whose girlfriend bought him R. Kelly tickets for his birthday. He was unaware of any allegations. “I’ve never heard any of that stuff,” he says. “So I guess it doesn’t bother me.”
To some, the notion of separating the man from the music isn’t worth the trouble. For others, the allegations are easy to ignore when the consequences affect young Black women they know nothing about. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, or RAINN, reports 17.7 million American women have been the victims of rape or an attempted rape. The majority of rape victims are of mixed race (24.4 percent) followed by Black women (18.8 percent.) Sadly, Black women are the least likely to identify their attacker.
Another fact that can’t be ignored is Kelly’s impact on music. The singer was named Billboard‘s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Past 25 Years, while Vibe credited him with a similar title. He’s been nominated for over 20 Grammys, is a 19-time BMI Award winner, and sold millions of records in his career, which has spanned over two decades.
His pleas to support R&B music are warranted, yes, but given Kelly’s past and what that means for Black women, isn’t it about time we stop ignoring the obvious? Your money = your support. Think about it.
SOURCE: Vulture | VIDEO CREDIT: YouTube