EPITOME OF ELEGANCE
Why Does Anyone Still Think It's OK To Listen To R. Kelly?
For much of my life I’ve listened to R Kelly records without question. Even after that infamous sex tape. I kept listening, even though part of me knew I couldn’t be someone who claimed to care about women and girls, yet be a woman who supported his work.
My issue was that R Kelly records had woven themselves into the fabric of my life. I can’t remember the first time I heard “Vibe” it’s the type of record most babies born in the late 80’s don’t remember learning, because they’ve always known it. R Kelly’s records are ubiquitous. Infectious. They transport you back to a moment. “I Believe I Can Fly” reminds me of an important period in my childhood when I was starting to ask questions about justice and mercy and why life sometimes doesn’t offer them to us when we need them most. “Ignition” reminds me of Secondary School. “Step In The Name of Love” and “Happy People” are magical records that make me think of family, friends, love, and nights where just the right amount of liquor (and loving) makes things better.
As much as I loved R Kelly records, I had questions. However I pushed them aside. “Focus on the music, not the man” I told myself.
Recently I’ve resolved my cognitive dissonance. Pushed aside my musical tastes and thought carefully about what I choose to support, and critically what I speak out against.
I’ve been reading more about R Kelly’s lawsuits, looked at the mountain of evidence and questioned what our collective acceptance of him says about us as a society. At this juncture I’m forced to conclude it says that we value art above humanity. We will focus on a person’s contributions to the world, rather than defend the people they may have damaged in the process.
This makes me uncomfortable because R Kelly’s victims are the girls no one speaks for. Little brown invisible voiceless girls whose bodies are molested without their consent. Girls who grow into women who watch their predator being deified and exalted because of his music. Girls whose silence can be bought and swept under the proverbial rug. Girls who we really don’t care about. How R Kelly disturbed their bodies and minds doesn’t matter, what matters is that he’s a genius and we love his music.
I choose not to support R Kelly and in this piece for xoJane I articulate why. My question to you is - what will you do?