One year ago, Lifetime aired a docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, which detailed decades of alleged abusive behavior by the singer. The series aired on three consecutive nights and featured dozens of interviews with survivors, siblings, associates, experts, critics, and performers.
Surviving R. Kelly made a major impact immediately, trending No. 1 on Twitter for all three nights. It dramatically shifted public perception of the singer. R. Kelly quickly denied all allegations, but in the year to follow, he has been dropped by his label and placed behind bars without bond while facing two federal cases for his alleged crimes.
Now, Lifetime is airing a follow-up called Surviving R. Kelly Part II: The Reckoning. The series, which will air for three consecutive nights, debuted on Thursday night with two one-hour episodes. The Complex Music team has outlined the biggest takeaways from night one of Surviving R. Kelly Part II below. If you missed last year’s series, you can read recaps here, here, and here.
R. Kelly and his team allegedly sent threats to survivors and witnesses following airing of ‘Surviving R. Kelly’
Following the first airing of Surviving R. Kelly in January 2019, multiple survivors and participants in the documentary say they received threats from Kelly’s staff and associates.
Faith Rogers, a survivor who previously filed a lawsuit against Kelly alleging that he exposed her to an STD, says she has been on the received end of numerous threats. The first incident occurred prior to the airing of the docuseries. “My attorney received a letter, and it was already a threatening letter. It had [nude] pictures of me,” she says. “It said I needed to abandon these heartless efforts of trying to ruin his career. It said he would have 10 men that were going to come and talk about my sex life or that they have had sex with me.”
Rogers and her family later received threatening texts and phone calls after the docuseries aired, which attempted to force her into dropping the allegations and the lawsuit. The Rogers family say they were forced to relocate and install cameras on their property. In another incident, Faith says she received a message from a woman who she believed to be an employee of R. Kelly. The woman, whose name is not provided, said she possessed photos and videos of Rogers in compromising positions with Kelly, and she wanted Rogers to meet her to discuss the matter further. Under Rogers’ mother’s counsel, they met the woman at Applebee’s, where she showed Rogers the sexual content on her phone. Rogers is epileptic, and due to the stress of the situation, she had a seizure upon returning to her hotel room.
Rogers wasn’t the only survivor to be targeted. As previously reported, the Surviving R. Kelly premeire was evacuated due to a gun threat. Many of the survivors and attendees recalled the trauma of that night and accused Kelly and his team of attempting to sabotage the event. “That’s when I knew something powerful is in this documentary and someone is trying to make sure it’s never seen,” survivor Kitti Jones says.
Jim DeRogatis, a reporter and author who has been at the forefront of R. Kelly’s cases, says he also received threats due to his reporting. He says his porch window was shot at in January 2001. It is unclear who fired the shot, but he suggests it was a member from Kelly’s camp, who did it in an attempt to silence him. DeRogatis also recalls a call he received in which someone targeted his six-year-old daughter.
Dame Dash speaks on alleged Aaliyah abuse: ‘She just said he was a bad man’
Dame Dash, who was dating Aaliyah when she died in 2001, remembers the late singer telling him about her secret marriage to R. Kelly when she was just 15. “She just said he was a bad man, and she left it at that,” Dame Dash says. “It made her so uncomfortable that I couldn’t know about it, because it would have made me too uncomfortable not to try to rectify that situation. But I just wouldn’t have been able to tolerate knowing certain things and being in the same room with certain people, unless they’re begging me not to. So I had to get therapy over that.”
Reflecting on the situation, Dash continues, “If people would have protected Aaliyah, so many other girls wouldn’t have got touched [...] Aaliyah was like the sacrificial lamb for all of that because she didn’t deserve none of that. [She was] a good soul and a good girl. She wasn’t even really so resentful, like, ‘Let that man live, but just keep him the fuck away from me.’ That’s all she wanted. She was just happy to be away.”
Dash, who is in the midst of an alleged sexual assault case of his own after reportedly being sued for $50 million, adds, “I know the whole story. I know it was the cover-up and all of that, but how does that cover it up? It just made the conversation less crazy, like, ‘Oh, he married a child.’”
Bruce Kelly says R. Kelly once admitted to a pastor that he has ‘a problem’
R. Kelly has repeatedly denied allegations against him, but his brother Bruce Kelly does recall one time that the singer admitted he has “a problem.” Bruce tells a story about Kelly breaking down in tears while speaking with a female pastor at his home years ago. “He was pointing to a walk-in closet with shelves full of videotapes,” Bruce remembers. “He was telling the pastor, ‘I look at those video tapes and I **** off.’ He was asking for help. Like, ‘I have a problem.’ That’s the only time I think Robert admitted he has a problem. I think it’s a sexual problem. A sexual addiction.” Bruce admits that he wishes he would have encouraged his brother to get help at that point.
R. Kelly allegedly settled ‘numerous’ abuses case quietly
Jim DeRogatis alleges that attorney Susan E. Loggans helped “numerous” R. Kelly survivors settle for monetary value. DeRogatis describes a “settlement factory,” in which Loggans allegedly met with survivors who had stories of sexual abuse. She would allegedly send them to a private detective agency and make them take a lie detector test. A settlement would be struck on the premise that they would also sign a nondisclosure agreement. “I believe there are more than a dozen of those settlements that we don’t know about, because there were not court papers,” DeRogatis, author of Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly, says. “Loggans has never given me the number. She has only said numerous, with a little bit of a smirk.”
Details emerge about how R. Kelly’s music industry connections helped enable his alleged behavior
Jimmy Maynes, an artist manager and former SVP Creative at Jive Records, tells stories about how members of the music industry may have helped enable R. Kelly’s alleged actions. “I remember being called to Jive late one night,” Maynes says. “We were brought into a conference room and they said, ‘Hey guys, we have a problem.’ During the time of the explosive tape, I remember them playing 15 or 20 seconds. At that point, my bosses said, ‘We’ve seen enough.’ There are just some things I think you can’t unsee.”
He continues, “In a panic, they said to me and another executive, ‘You guys need to go to Chicago and you guys need to buy up all the tapes you can find. And we did.” He adds, “I remember one of my bosses telling me, ‘Jimmy, don’t get caught up, because if Rob goes down, people are going to get fired.’ I was like, ‘Why? It’s not our fault.’ He said, ‘Rob keeps the lights on around here.’”
Maynes says he confronted R. Kelly about it one day, but the singer responded by saying it was his brother, not him.
Dyan Ely, R. Kelly’s former recording engineer, remembers watching the infamous Chappelle’s Show “Piss On You” sketch with the singer. “Rob didn’t say ‘turn it off,’” Ely says. “He watched the thing and it was awkward silence for a while. It felt like forever. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, shit.’ It was pretty intense and pretty crazy. Rob is probably the weirdest slash most intense slash most demanding artist I’ve ever worked for.”
Ely also shares a story about seeing women in a garage as R. Kelly was recording, while preparing for his first trial. “Leading up to the trial, there were two women that lived pretty much full time in the garage,” Ely says. “They were there as long as I was working at [the studio]. I think it was kind of an unwritten rule that they weren’t supposed to talk to us and we weren’t supposed to talk to them.” He says he believes one of the girls in the garage was the girl from the pee tape.
Carey Kelly remembers seeing video of R. Kelly with a 13-year-old girl, before the tape was burned
R. Kelly’s brother Carey Kelly tells a story about borrowing a movie from the singer and instead finding a video with underage girls on it. “I put the tape in, and what’s on this tape is these little girls that he done filmed over,” Carey Kelly says. “He asked these girls on this tape, ‘How old are you?’ It was like he was interviewing them. And they were like, ‘13.’ These were white girls that were 13. In the system, [that’s] a different ballgame than a black girl that’s 13. He would have been gone.” Carey Kelly admits he made a mistake at the time by not doing anything about it. Instead of alerting anyone, he gave the tape back to his brother: “Robert ended up coming to Chicago and I gave it to him and he burned it up.”
Survivor Tiffany Hawkins alleges Kelly took advantage of her, and asked her to recruit other underage friends
Tiffany Hawkins, the first survivor to legally come forward, gets the chance to tell her story in-depth. Hawkins says she met R. Kelly in Chicago in 1991 when she was 15 years old. After approaching the singer in a Chicago neighborhood, she told him that she was an aspiring singer. Kelly allegedly invited Hawkins and her friends to his apartment, where she sang for him. According to Hawkins, her early relationship with Kelly was a familial one. She described him as a brother. Although Hawkins did not initially have sex with the singer, she says she invited many of her friends over, who did engage in sexual activity with him.
Hawkins says she recruited those friends to come over to Kelly’s apartment because of his request. “Every girl I brought was between the age of 14 and 16,” she says. Ebony Wilkins, who also appears in the docuseries, was one of the women she introduced to Kelly. Wilkins recalls having sex with Kelly as well.
Several months after Hawkins met Kelly, he stopped asking Hawkins to invite her friends over—a move she suspects was because others had been alerted to Kelly’s questionable behavior. “We went from the brother-sister type of relationship to more of a sexual relationship, and it was weird for me,” she recalls.
At this time, Hawkins says that she lived with Kelly and cut off contact with her family and friends. The details of her experience are similar to survivors who have publicly shared their stories: “I honestly can’t think of a time I was with R. Kelly and we didn’t have sex. It was all the time. I hated it. I hated it. But I did it. Because I felt like it’s what I had to do.”
Hawkins says this continued until she became pregnant. After informing Kelly of her health status, she says she attempted to commit suicide by taking several pills.Hawkins was the first known survivor of Kelly to take legal action against Kelly. She filed a suit which included other witnesses such as Wilkins and Aaliyah. She later settled her suit for $250,000, contingent on her signing an NDA.
R. Kelly’s brothers allege sexual abuse by family and friends when they were children
Surviving R. Kelly: The Reckoning dives into more details about R. Kelly’s backstory and childhood. Within the first 10 minutes, viewers learn more about the alleged sexual abuse that R. Kelly experienced as a child, and has openly talked about in previous interviews (as well as his song, “I Admit”).
R. Kelly’s brothers, Bruce and Carey, say that Kelly was abused around the age of eight by a man named Mr. Henry, whom they referred to as the “neighborhood uncle.” Mr. Henry became friendly with Robert and his brother by buying them food and other presents. The Kelly brothers recall an instance in which Mr. Henry invited them to his house and exposed his genitals to them. “We fought for our life to get out that house. We could hear him say, ‘Don’t tell nobody,’” Carey Kelly says. In another alleged incident, Mr. Henry specifically targeted Robert and “tried some inappropriate things” with him. Drea Kelly echoes Carey and Bruce’s recollection of abuse by Mr. Henry.
Following those alleged incidents, Kelly’s mother called the police and informed them of Mr. Henry’s actions. Prior to the police’s arrival, men in the neighborhood jumped Mr. Henry. Despite the authorities getting involved, though, Mr. Henry allegedly bribed Kelly’s mother to not appear in court, which is presumably why the legal case ended there.
Aside from Mr. Henry, the brothers also mentions a female family member who allegedly abused Carey and Robert. This family member’s name is redacted from the series, but Carey recalls incidents in which she allegedly climbed on top of him, unzipped his pants, and had sex with him. Carey also accuses the family member of doing the same acts to Robert.
Kelly’s brothers suggest these experiences of alleged child abuse led to Kelly’s disturbing behavior as an adult. “Robert’s sexual life, and the way that he turned out today to be,” Carey says. “For a man to molest my brother and for [redacted name] to molest him, that changes the game.”