R. Kelly In Concert - Brooklyn, New York
Mike Pont

'Surviving R. Kelly,' Part 1: How Fame Shielded Him From Accountability Early In His Career

Part 1 of the Lifetime docu-series dives into Kelly’s childhood and how he allegedly preyed on young girls early in the 1990s.

Readers note: This recap may be triggering to those who have experienced sexual assault.

New unsettling details about R. Kelly’s alleged sexual abuse of black girls were unveiled in Lifetime’s latest documentary ‘Surviving R. Kelly.’ The first two installments of the six-part series, produced by writer dream hampton, premiered Thursday night. So far, it is an eye-opening exposé of the Pied Piper who’s been under mainstream criticism since Buzzfeed’s 2017 report on his “alleged cult” and the rise of the #MuteRKelly movement. Activists say the allegations mirror classic sex trafficking tactics. But Kelly has consistently denied numerous accusations since the 1990s.

Part one of Surviving R Kelly dives into Kelly’s troubled childhood and how the singer began using his circle to assist in his schemes to prey on teen girls, including late singer Aaliyah and survivor Lizzette Martinez.

While growing up on Chicago’s South Side, Robert Kelly was a timid child, ashamed of his illiteracy, according to his brothers Carey and Bruce Kelly. But he was also musically gifted. “It took his mind away from reality,” Carey said, as there was also a dark side to their childhood. As children, both Carey Kelly and R. Kelly were molested. The singer told journalist Tavis Smiley in a 2012 interview, he was abused by “people in my family” from ages seven to 13. “Child sexual abuse confuses power and control with sex,” clinical psychologist, Candice Norcott said in the film. As child victims become adults, they may exhibit abusive behaviors too, Norcott added.

“No he didn’t talk about that, but you knew about it, because it came out in the music,” said Dr. Lena McLin, Kelly’s former music teacher at Kenwood Academy. McLin noticed Kelly was “aggressive in some of his sexual language” when writing songs. But after Kelly ascended to superstardom, his issues with sex and power exacerbated, those around him claim.

One witness to this was Javonte Cunningham, a former background singer, who met R. Kelly in 1990 when she was 14 years old. She recalled seeing Kelly performing a sexual act with a teen girl in the studio while he was recording the Public Announcement song “Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ).” Music producer Craig Williams said he heard Kelly was picking up girls at Kenwood Academy high school and middle school. It wasn’t a mystery why adults didn’t intervene, said writer Mikki Kendall, who was a girl when she saw Kelly talking to students at the school. ”No one cared ‘cause we were black girls.”

Mikki Kendall, a culture critic, said by the early 1990s, Kelly would have been sublime to teen girls. He had been the lead singer of the R&B group Public Announcement. In 1993, Kelly went solo with his debut album 12 Play, which featured his lusty chart-topper “Bump N’ Grind.”

His success allowed him the privilege to develop other artists. One was his manager’s niece, 12-year-old newcomer Aaliyah. Kelly produced her 1994 debut Age Ain’t Nothin but A Number, a title that many speculated was a nod to a relationship between a young girl and an adult man. In the documentary, Cunningham made the shocking claim that she saw Kelly having sex with Aaliyah on a tour bus during that period, which the singer’s mother Diane Haughton called “lies and fabrications” in a statement Wednesday.

A marriage certificate (reported by MTV, and by VIBE), revealed the truth. On the document, Aaliyah’s age was printed as 18, when she was really 15. Kelly's tour manager Demetrius Smith, who was present at the ceremony in Maywood, Illinois, said he had papers forged for them. “Aaliyah looked worried. Scared,” Smith described. “I failed both of them.”

As outlined by the documentary, R. Kelly paid Aaliyah $100 to agree not to pursue legal action and her parents had the marriage annulled in two months.

“Where was the outrage? Where was Essence? Where was Ebony? Where was the local news?" asked writer Jamilah Lemieux, who criticized the media for not holding Kelly accountable for marrying a child. “Why didn't the culture say ‘something is wrong’?”

Journalist Ann Powers pointed to the history of famous men who dated and married underage girls, as Kelly wouldn’t be the first. For instance, rock musician Jerry Lewis married his 13-year-old third cousin Myra, in 1957. Elvis Presley was 10 years older than Priscilla Presley, and they met when she was 14. He courted her until they married when she was 21 in 1967.

After his relationship with Aaliyah, Kelly reportedly groomed non-famous girls while touring and ordered his entourage to recruit them at malls, Carey Kelly said. One victim was Lizzette Martinez, who met Kelly at a mall in Miami when she was 17 in 1995. His bodyguard gave Martinez Kelly’s phone number and he invited her out to dinner. Martinez, who wanted to pursue a singing career, saw this as her big break. But one night, while she was in the studio with him, he forcefully kissed her. In part two, Martinez and other women go deeper and recount similar abusive experiences with Kelly that haunt them until this day.

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An Unofficial Documentary About Drake Is Currently On Streaming Services

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The documentary chronicles the music superstar from his days growing up in Toronto, to portraying Jimmy on the hit-teen drama Degrassi, to becoming a hip-hop star and working with musicians from Kanye West to his Young Money leader, Lil Wayne.

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Drake has not commented on the doc as of press time. He has been relatively quiet in the news, however, it's being reported that he is close to securing a residency of sorts at the Wynn's XS Nightclub in Las Vegas.

 

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Stream: Hulu's 'FYRE Fraud' Doc Examines The Festival That Scammed Thousands

In 2017, rumors of an exclusive festival taking place in the Bahamas took over social media. Organized by Billy McFarland and promoted by Ja Rule, the FYRE Festival was the new, cool kid on the festival block and quickly put other more seasoned festivals to shame.

But all that glitters isn't gold.

FYRE FRAUD, the new documentary streaming on Hulu, takes an intimate look at the scam that left thousands stranded on the island. Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, the dark-comedy interviews whistleblowers, victims, and the convicted con-man himself, McFarland.

In a press release, Fraust and Nason said the goal isn't to make light of those who were scammed.

"Our aim was to set the stage for a strange journey into the moral abyss of our digital age, going beyond the meme to show an ecosystem of enablers, driven by profit and willing to look the other way, for their own gain.

"We draw on countless cultural references, on true crime tension, and on humor - but we did not intend to create a toothless comedy about the Fyre Festival. We hope this film can pierce our collective apathy and disrupt our own millennial peers, if only for an instant - to look at these stories for what they truly are, and to halt this algorithm before it devours us whole."

FYRE FRAUD is now streaming on Hulu.

 

 

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Dave Chappelle Isn't Sure His R. Kelly 'Chappelle Show' Skits Were Insensitive

The Surviving R. Kelly series may be over, but the fallout from it has seemingly just begun.

Director dream hampton took to Twitter during the airing of the Lifetime documentary and spoke honestly about the several celebrity men she contacted in hopes they'd speak on camera about R. Kelly and the years of sexual allegations that have shadowed him. Among them was Dave Chappelle.

The beloved comic famously made a music video entitled "Piss On You" mocking the real-life video of R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. During the Chappelle Show heyday, he used R.Kelly's legal woes as material for years.

TMZ caught with Chappelle in West Hollywood and asked him if he regretted not being featured in hampton's series and instead he dodged the question.

"Jesus Christ, I just had dinner," Chappelle said in between taking a drag of his cigarette. "I just ate. Strop bringing that motherf**ker up."

When pressed about whether or not he thinks his old skits were insensitive, the 45-year-old said "I don't know. I'd have to watch it again."

D.L. Hughley joined Chappelle for dinner and commented on R.Kelly and the forthcoming Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, which outlines sexual assault allegations against the late singer.

"If you can be mad at R. Kelly, you should be mad at Michael Jackson," Hughley said.

 

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