As women continue to come forward and spill their stories of abuse, kidnapping, and generally fucked-up mistreatment, their yet-to-be charged offender, R. Kelly, maintains his innocence. It’s been an open secret that the R&B legend has a penchant for ensnaring young girls in his trap of promised fame and true love, but it wasn't until last year that news broke that Kelly had been allegedly holding women hostage in an “abusive cult.” Since then, story after story has broken, detailing everything from victims being sexually coerced to drugged to flat-out abused by Kelly.
All that being said: Kelly has yet to be formally charged with anything. So when Spotify announced it would be pulling Kelly’s music from its promoted playlists—not from the entire streaming service itself—it came as a pleasant surprise. "We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly," Spotify told Billboard in a statement. "We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions—what we choose to program—to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator."
Kelly responded with a prepared statement to BuzzFeed that appropriately upheld his warped view of respect for women. The spiciest part of the statement came in the second-to-last paragraph: “Meanwhile, though, Spotify promotes numerous other artists who are convicted felons, others who have been arrested on charges of domestic violence and artists who sing lyrics that are violent and anti-women in nature.”
As putrid as Kelly’s reported actions are, he’s right. Famous Dex is one example of an artist whose ill actions have actually been documented; Dex was recorded violently abusing his girlfriend at the time, back in 2016. Even Rich the Kid, who’s coming off of a Kendrick Lamar cosign and gaining major traction, has a sketchy past with domestic violence; in his case, the alleged victim was his wife of three years. But the two rappers, who were both called out in 2016, are currently featured on Spotify’s popular Rap Caviar playlist, which has nearly 10 million followers.
In addition to Kelly, another artist excluded from Spotify playlists is XXXTentacion, who has been infamously charged with varying levels of abuse. He currently faces a slew of charges, including aggravated battery against a pregnant woman, false imprisonment, domestic battery by strangulation and witness-tampering.
Not everybody agrees with Spotify’s decision to remove Kelly and XXX from the most visible areas of its platform. One example is 50 Cent, who took to Twitter shortly after Spotify’s announcement to voice his opinion. “Spotify is wrong for what there doing to artist like R Kelly and xxxtentacion. There not even convicted of any thing,” he tweeted. Earlier this year, 50 Cent crowned the problematic 6ix9ine as the new King of New York—the Brooklyn rapper is in the middle of a child sex case which stems from a 2015 incident and led to 6ix9ine pleading guilty to use of a child (a 13-year-old) in a sexual performance. He recorded and uploaded the 2015 act to social media, and when asked about it, 6ix9ine said, "I was doing it for my image." As of the time of this writing, he’s still featured on a handful of Spotify’s playlists as well, including one called Clout Culture.
This is a slippery slope. The task of picking and choosing between artist offenses is already subjective. Following the presented logic, and if Spotify is actually about that action, many artists will be pulled off of the streaming giant's influential playlists in the coming weeks. But that seems unlikely to happen. Spotify has opted to keep the language of what would keep an artist on or off these playlists vague, so we don't know how far the company will take its newfound crusade. Unfortunately, it likely won't be much further than the company's taken it thus far, given the murky waters it would have to wade into.
Abuse and assault are threaded in the very fabric of this country. The president admitted to grabbing women by the pussy, for fuck’s sake. And what has happened to him? Not a damn thing. Even if the removal from Spotify playlists represented a career-altering setback to someone like R. Kelly, it’s unrealistic to think we can weed out every single offender, both the public screw-ups and the ones who keep their bad deeds behind closed doors. It would be ideal and possibly even utopian to clean house—within Spotify and the music world at large—but to do that would be to upend the entire industry. That just isn't going to happen.