“It’s too late, they should have did this shit 30 years ago,” the Zorro-mask wearing, Aaron Hall-style jocking, reading club reject and overall miscreant declared. Pissy went on to add, “I’ve got a million motherfuckers hating me, and 40 billion motherfuckers loving me.” Although the melodic menace appears to also struggle with mathematics, there is sadly an inconvenient truth to his larger point about having developed a large fan base over a career spanning decades.
Indeed, despite Spotify announcing that it would remove R. Kelly’s music from its promoted playlists as part of its new policy on hate content and hateful conduct, the singer’s streaming numbers actually increased. As previously reported, before the announcement, he averaged 6,584,000 weekly streams for the year, but from May 10 to May 16, he garnered 6,676,000 streams. The numbers come from Nielsen Music, which are based on audio streams from Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and other music platforms.
On its surface, the news might sound like those seeking to malign R. Kelly may be doing so in vain. However, the increased streams do not necessarily prove R. Kelly right or the campaign to mute him futile. One might argue that the controversy presumably spurred curiosity from people who might’ve long forgotten about R. Kelly to reminisce about old hits and subsequently revisit them. While that is not the ideal result, #MuteRKelly has never pretended that it could conceivably convince every single person on the planet to turn off the artist who has been referred to as “The King of R&B” for years. Unfortunately, for some, there is nothing anyone could say that would stop them from turning on the “Ignition (Remix).”
Still, there are already tangible successes that can be attributed to the #MuteRKelly campaign—and there are ample opportunities for more. Again, it’s not about forcibly making everyone permanently tune out R. Kelly. What is possible, though, is turning a man long accused of being a predator into a public pariah, effectively stripping him of the institutional support he should have stopped enjoying long ago. As for those who continue listening to R. Kelly’s music no matter what, at the very least, they can be called out for any public display of support of him and what that signifies.
Like Burke, I recently found myself at an event where I heard R. Kelly’s music. I asked one of the organizers if that was really the sort of artist they wanted to be playing—notably at an event for a marginalized group often subjected to sexual assault and other forms of abuse. I am normally prone to bop to anything, but when it comes to R. Kelly, that bitch can fall open mouth first into a Crockpot of urine being cooked on high. I ain’t dancing to any of his shit. I stepped outside.
So yes, Kelly is correct: there should have been widespread condemnation and subsequent blacklisting for the litany of allegations against the singer long ago.
He should have never gotten to enjoy the great success he did in the 1990s and early 2000s after marrying a teenage girl and being featured in an apparent statutory rape-themed recording. Nor should he have basked in a resurgence years later by way of collaborations with the likes of Lady Gaga. And his musical cohorts—Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Jennifer Hudson, Ty Dolla $ign, Tinashe, Jeremih and Jhené Aiko—should not have appeared on more recent R. Kelly offerings, like 2015’s The Buffet.
The failure to hold Kelly accountable for his accused crimes is why he allegedly continues to commit them. On Monday, Faith Rogers filed a lawsuit against Kelly, accusing him of “sexual battery, knowingly infecting her with herpes and locking her in rooms for punishment.” The 20-year-old also alleges that during their relationship, Kelly "mentally, sexually and verbally" abused her and claims Kelly told her that she looked “about 14.”
let him enjoy his lil’ one-week spike in streams. It is a mere pebble on the BUMPY road to the isolation his perversions have long warranted.
R. Kelly’s ability to maintain fame and amass fortune have surely helped him to meet young women like Rogers. And even though 30 years have gone by, it is not too late to make R. Kelly finally face the consequences. To make it harder for him to get on the radio. To make it harder for him to book shows. To make it harder for him to have a record label. To make it harder for him to make money and maintain his fame.
It is not too late to make any of these things happen. His former lawyer, publicist, and personal assistant, who all have quit working with him, likely believe it not too late for R. Kelly to see the repercussions of his actions. So, let him enjoy his lil’ one-week spike in streams. It won’t last long. It is a mere pebble on the bumpy road to the isolation his perversions have long warranted. The same goes for the stubborn fans sacrificing the humanities of young women and girls to step in the name of love.
R. Kelly is a monster who, after so much time getting by without any trouble at all, finally has a deserved target on his back. No song of his will be able to save his punk ass from that. Streams, be damned.