As R. Kelly’s music gained ignition, cultural representations of his scandal-clad career made the world more familiar with a remix of the R&B singer/producer’s life story. His sexual habits not only fueled his explicit lyrics and latest album The Buffet but the rumors tarnishing the Grammy-award winner’s reputation. Recently, Kelly met with GQ to amend some of the talk—discussing sexual abuse as a child, days on trial for child pornography, his relationship with the late Aaliyah, and even a few words on Bill Crosby’s downfall.
R. Kelly starts with his upbringing in a poverty-stricken Chicago neighborhood where he was taunted for his inability to read. A close relationship with his single mother could not distract him from his father’s absence in their South Side home, he told GQ. Also plaguing his childhood were years of sexual abuse by a different female relative and attempts by a male family friend—experiences under lock and key to everyone, mother and partners included, until his memoir, Soulacoaster in 2012, and more in detail now with GQ.
“It teaches you to definitely be sexual earlier than you should have, than you’re supposed to.” Kelly dates the molestation, oral sex, and intercourse by his kin as far back as age 7 and going on into his teen years. “As I’m older, I look at it and I know that it had to be not just about me and them, but them and somebody older than them when they were younger, and whatever happened to them when they were younger,” Kelly said. “I looked at it as if there was a sort of like, I don’t know, a generational curse, so to speak, going down through the family. Not just started with her doing that to me.”
On the topic of underage affairs, the writer, Chris Heath, doesn’t shy away from the Aaliyah question—mainly the Illinois marriage certificate between a “Robert S. Kelly” and an “Aaliyah D. Haughton,” seen in our Dec 1994 – Jan 1995 print issue. Sexual contact and pregnancy flooded the rumor mills surrounding the relationship between two R&B hitmakers. A possible marriage union could dissolve their seemingly professional friendship further in the public’s eyes. Even-more-so, the then-27-year-old Kelly would potentially have created a comprising situation with a 15-year-old wife and lack of consent by his spouse’s parents.
Additionally, the reported certificate lists the bride’s age as 18 years old, delegitimazing a supposed ceremony with false information. When asked about this particular scandal, Kelly replied that Aaliyah’s parents asked him to refrain from the topic—which he adheres.”I know Aaliyah’s not here and can’t speak for herself, but there was a time that she was plenty here, after that rumor and all of that stuff started,” he said. “Plenty grown. She was 22 and could speak for herself. Her mother, her father, anybody else, could speak and say whatever they wanted.”
And despite his past, Kelly told GQ that he is determined to ace fatherhood. He idolizes Bill Cosby, he clarifies, the Cliff Huxatble image of Cosby. But with legal battles the comedian/actor faces today, Kelly has more in common with Cosby than just having kids. The “I Believe I Can Fly” artist said that he had his own share of, as described, out-of-the-blue accusations when indicted on child pornography charges and with other allegations of sexual involvement with minors.
His experiences makes him question what Cosby is going through. “When I look on TV and I see the 70-, 80-, 90-year-old ladies talking about what happened when they were 17, 18, or 19, there’s something strange about it,” he said. “When you wait 70 years, 50 years, 40 years, to say something that simple, it’s strange. You know why I say that is because it happened to me, and it wasn’t true.”
Check out the rest of R. Kelly’s interview for GQ here.