Today on the Village Voice's music blog Sound of the City, Chicago journalists Jessica Hopper and Jim DeRogatis published a lengthy and detailed discussion of the history of R. Kelly's sex crimes. The piece also includes court documents related to the 2002 child pornography charges brought against Kelly, as well as DeRogatis' original reporting on the crimes and the ensuing trial as published in the Chicago Sun-Times in the early and mid-2000s.
Though R. Kelly's proclivity towards young girls was not exactly a secret in the early part of his career, it was a story that only made its way to the courts after DeRogatis and his colleagues at the Sun-Times were anonymously delivered two video tapes showing Kelly having sex with minors, including the infamous tape of him urinating on a girl that would eventually become famous sketch comedy fodder.
The discussion between Hopper and DeRogatis focuses both on the nature and history of Kelly's crimes, as well as why his music has gotten a pass from legitimate and important music outlets such as Pitchfork, who had R. Kelly headline its festival in his hometown of Chicago this summer. (Note: I reviewed R. Kelly's new album Black Panties for PItchfork, which is implicitly referenced during the course of the interview.)
As far as detailing Kelly's exhaustive history with young girls, the interview between Hopper and DeRogatis is vital public information. DeRogatis, who has reported on the story for 15 years, talks both about allegations that have been forgotten by time—interviews he conducted and first-person stories he received from numerous anonymous women in Chicago— as well as the more publicized incidents that he feels have gathered so much attention that they have had the effect of distorting history. Much of this information has not been compiled in the one place for years, if ever, and it is necessary to read DeRogatis' anecdotes about the women left in Kelly's wake.
DeRogatis also accuses journalists—primarily young ones—of being irresponsible in investigating and educating themselves on Kelly's history, but also notes, repeatedly, that it is ultimately up to the listener to decide for him/herself how much is too much. DeRogatis mentions multiple times that he remains an avowed fan of James Brown (a known domestic abuser), illustrating the cognitive dissonance that explains why judging music on moral grounds is a conversation with no endpoint.
But this is nonetheless an important moment in that conversation. It is also an important moment in the more micro-conversation regarding R. Kelly. The evidence is now in the light.
Read the entire thing at Sound Of The City.
UPDATE 12/16/13 5:43PM: R. Kelly appeared on Atlanta radio station V103 earlier today to promote his new album Black Panties and was asked to address the Voice article. Below is a rundown of his response from Radio.com:
"When asked about the story, Kelly chose to brush it off. 'Well I feel like I got the football man, and I’m running towards the touchdown and if I stop and look back or mess around, I’ll get tackled,' he explained.
Kelly said he appreciates all of his fans who have been supporting him since the beginning of his career, but knows it’s on him to stay strong when stories like this come out. 'When you get on top of anything, it’s very windy,' he said. 'It’s about holding your balance once you get up there…Spiritually, I’m a climber.'
The singer squashed the conversation by simply saying those who want to talk bad about him should just listen to the final track on his new album, aptly titled 'Shut Up.'