A newly-published profile by Vulture poses a captivating question regarding a certain R&B legend: “Is It Okay To Listen To R. Kelly?” Pairing his undisputed musical genius with the controversy surrounding his alleged attraction to underage girls, the profile places his past up against his legacy. Through conversations with Kellz and sources such as a former Chicago Sun-Times writer who detailed his sex assault allegations, the article digs up the conflict between the man and his signature NSFW lyrics.
After a listening to his upcoming The Buffet album, R. Kelly acknowledged his now-tainted image, and how it has contributed to his name staying in the conversation.
“I’m going to always have the gift along with the curse,” he says, after we’ve finished listening to his album. “I feel like I got a million people hating me, I’ve got maybe 8 million loving me. So I’ve got 9 million talking about me, and in a strange, magical way, it keeps me in the game.”
From his 1994 marriage to a then 15-year-old Aaliyah, to a 1996 lawsuit from a young woman who claimed the singer slept with her when she was 15, to two other lawsuits in 2001 and 2002, R. Kelly past’s is placed up against undisputed musical contributions. In what might be the most awkward conversation with R. Kelly since his 21-count firestorm, the singer gives “roundabout” answers to a drill of inquiries about his questionable history.
Strange to say the least. Read the exchange below:
Do you have a sexual attraction to underage girls? I ask.
“That’s a rumor that comes from the Earth, like all rumors,” he says, sounding almost bored.
So it’s not true?
“No. It’s not true. I love women, period. If I wasn’t a celebrity, people wouldn’t be saying these things about me.”
How do you explain people close to you saying that you have a problem?
“I don’t know those people you’re talking about.”
I clarify: his brother, his ex-publicist, his former friend and longtime personal assistant.
“All those people have been fired by me. If you’re going to ask me these questions, you have to make sense out of it. It wasn’t until after they got fired that they said these things. Go figure. I got one life, and I don’t want to spend it talking about negativity. I’ve moved on. Maybe you haven’t.”
It’s not crazy to think that where there’s smoke there’s fire.
“Let’s correct that,” he says. “Smoke can be anything. I’ve seen smoke and then I looked and there was no fire.”
And what about all the settlements? All the rumors?
“I understand the game,” Kelly says. “Get as much dirt as you can on somebody, get it all together, and make it real juicy so we can sell some papers. I understand the job you guys have to do.”
How do you explain the tape that Jim DeRogatis got?
“I don’t have no recollection of none of that. My lawyers handled that, what, eight, nine years ago?”
Do you have a sexual compulsion or problem that you need help with?
“I only have a problem with haters. Other than that, I’m doing well. I feel better than ever with my album The Buffet.”
In your career, you’ve often sung about forgiveness. What do you need to be forgiven for?
“I go to church. I ask for forgiveness. Don’t make a big deal out of R. Kelly saying it in a song. I believe in God. I fear God. I don’t want to go to hell.”
Do you think you might?
“Young fella,” he says, “absolutely.”
So. Very. Awkward.