Lady Gaga, Chance the Rapper and More: Those Who Have Spoken Out Against R. Kelly
By Stacy Lambe
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Following the debut of the six-part Lifetime docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, the music industry is no longer staying quiet about the R&B singer and the troubling allegations made against him.
Directed by filmmaker Dream Hampton, the series features over 50 original interviews, including conversations with a number of women who claim they were subjects of abuse and predatory behavior exhibited by Kelly, while others claimed to have witnessed inappropriate behavior between him and his then-underaged protege, the late-R&B songstress Aaliyah.
R. Kelly has long denied the allegations against him.
While Hampton hoped to include a number of Kelly’s peers and collaborators, John Legend is the only one who addressed the singer’s legacy and allegations on-camera. (Chance the Rapper appears in a clip from an older interview.) Speaking with Shadow and Act, the director opened up about the difficulties he and the production faced finding celebrities who were willing to speak out.
“John Legend was the only one," Hampton revealed. “I asked JAY-Z, I asked Mary J. Blige, I asked Lil' Kim, Erykah Badu, Dave Chappelle… I mean, most people just don't want to touch it. I remember Ahmir ["Questlove" Thompson] was like, ‘I would do anything for you but I can't do this.’ It's not because they support him, it's because it's so messy and muddy.”
The list of collaborators doesn’t stop there. Ashanti, Celine Dion, Ciara, Ja Rule, Jennifer Hudson, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Lil Jon, LL Cool J, Ludacris, Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, Nas, Nelly, Nick Cannon, Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Twista and Wyclef Jean are among the many, many prominent artists to have worked with Kelly, before and after rumors and allegations were made against the singer.
However, since the debut of the docuseries, many of Kelly’s former collaborators and peers have since changed their tune, issuing statements on social media or to the press about working with the singer.
Collaboration(s): “Do What U Want” (2013)
"I stand behind these women 1000%, believe them, know they are suffering and in pain, and feel strongly that their voices should be heard and taken seriously," Gaga said a lengthy statement posted to Twitter on Jan. 9. "What I am hearing about the allegations against R. Kelly is absolutely horrifying and indefensible."
"As a victim of sexual assault myself, I made both the song and video at a dark time in my life," she continued. "My intention was to create something extremely defiant and provocative, because I was angry and still hadn't processed the trauma that had occurred in my own life."
Gaga added that the song made it "clear how explicitly twisted my thinking was at the time. If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self I'd tell her to go through the therapy I have since then, so that I could understand the confused post-traumatic state that I was in -- or if therapy was not available to me or anyone in my situation -- to seek help, and speak as openly and honestly as possible about what we've been through."
She concluded by stating, "I intend to remove this song off iTunes and other streaming platforms and will not be working with him again. I'm sorry, both for my poor judgment when I was young, and for not speaking out sooner."
Chance the Rapper
Collaboration(s): “Somewhere in Paradise” (2015)
“Making a song with R. Kelly was a mistake,” the rapper posted to Twitter on Jan. 5. “I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.”
Collaboration(s): “Bump, Bump, Bump;” “Girlfriend;” “Bump That;” “What a Girl Wants;” (2002) and “Girlfriend (Pied Piper Remix)” (2003)
“Those responsible must be held accountable. #rkelly was both a victim & a predator & accordingly must be held accountable but also get professional help,” the B2K singer posted to Twitter on Jan. 6. “His artistic genius inspired us all. His music is being muted by the darkness of his actions. The dark always comes to light.”
He added that he would be retiring Kelly-written songs. “While I know our fans would be greatly disappointed if we didn’t perform those songs on #TheMillennoumTour, after the tour I am retiring those songs from my set list.”
Collaboration(s): “Trying to Be Cool (Remix)” (2013)
“We are deeply horrified by the stories of abuse surrounding R. Kelly,” the band posted to Twitter on Jan. 10. “We regret that we were not both more informed and more discerning when we worked with him previously. We fully support all victims of sexual abuse, and it's our hope that there will be a path to justice.”
Collaboration(s): “Stimulate Me” by Mocha and Destiny’s Child (1999)
“He liked to record late at night, around midnight,” Knowles, who was still managing his daughter Beyonce's R&B group, recalled to Metro.co.uk about working with Kelly. “And what was different with his studio was that one room had a recording suite, and next door was a club, with 40 or 50 people dancing. R. Kelly was managed by Sony, by someone I won’t name, and at that time, they would almost force you to record with [their] artists. And R. Kelly wasn't cheap -- it was $75,000, plus travel costs, so we're talking $100,000 for a song. I personally rejected the song, because I didn't think it was a good song. Not just because of [his] reputation -- this was around 1998, we had just begun to hear some of those things.”
“R. Kelly has brought so much pain to so many people,” Legend said in Surviving R. Kelly. “Time’s up for R. Kelly.” Later on Twitter, the singer added, “These survivors deserved to be lifted up and heard. I hope it gets them closer to some kind of justice.”
“I’m not feeling R after watching [the docuseries].... it’s so much filthy sh*t going on in this industry nobody will ever really speak on the wild sh*t because most of them could have docs like this or even worst done about them!” the rapper posted to Twitter on Jan. 5, adding: “It don’t take a rocket scientist to see what was going on.... what I’m tryna figure out why did they let it go on soooooo long!”
“There is NO excuse. Music is important. It really is. But it’s not more important than protecting our children, protecting our little girls. PERIOD,” the singer posted to Instagram on Jan. 6 with the hashtag, #MuteKelly.
“[A] lot of artists, song writers, producers, record execs, etc are very confused as to how to respond to what they’ve seen and heard,” the R&B singer wrote in a lengthy caption on Instagram posted Jan. 6. “We’ve all been inspired by this man. We’ve all been witnesses to his musical genius. We have shaped and molded talent we sign after his musical image. We’ve invested so much of ourselves into this man that it’s hard for us to let go. I no longer have that issue. I whole heartedly apologize for not coming to this realization sooner. I CANOT separate the music from the monster! My 3 black daughters won’t let me. What hurts even more are the facilitators around him. His team, his record company, the promoters, the radio stations! There has to be a line drawn. Enough has to be enough at some point. Who are we saying is worth protecting if we let this continue? I choose the lives of these young black girls! I’m sick to my stomach! Let me also say this! There are more men guilty of these crimes! Lets make sure none of them slip through the cracks every again! You are no king because kings don’t treat queens like this!
“I always thought Kels was trash. My reason for declining the R. Kelly docu that I support 10000000 percent is I didn’t wanna be in the ‘good times’ portion of the doc, like stanning [or, being an overzealous fan] for his ‘genius,” The Roots percussionist said in a now-deleted tweet originally posted Jan. 3. “I was asked to talk about his genius. I do not nor have I EVER stanned for him.”
“Many of these stories I was hearing when I, myself, was wayyyy underage,” JoJo wrote in a series of tweets posted on Jan. 5. “Making my first couple albums at 12 and then 14/15. I was a HUGEEEEE R Kelly fan, came from a broken home, had daddy issues, and wondered... how did these girls get chosen? I wondered if I could/would be.”
She added, “I feel DEEPLY for these COURAGEOUS QUEENS who come forward and in some cases risk their lives 2share their story &let others know they’re not alone!!!! Going up against powerful people/ entities f**king intimidating/ terrifying.”
“I’m not gonna lie, as a human I was tight. I was tight about a couple of things,” Damon, and former boyfriend to Aaliyah, said in an interview with the Hip-Hop Motivator. “Number one, there was a girl that was trying to talk about it and couldn’t. And I remember Aaliyah trying to talk about it and she couldn’t. She just would leave it at ‘that dude was a bad man.’ And I didn’t really wanna know what he did to the extent that I might feel the need… to deal with it. Just ‘cause that’s what a man does. But it just was so much hurt for her to revisit it. It was like, ‘I wouldn’t even wanna revisit it without a professional.’ Whatever got done was terrible.”
He concluded his lengthy discussion about the docuseries by asking, “At the end of the day, my question is why does it take people so long? Why is it only because there’s a documentary and now it’s popular and now people be stepping up? This sh*t been going on for years and people been looking the other way.”
“As a student of R. Kelly’s for the time I was and having been around his light and understanding the obstacles he overcame as a child to actually be birthed into the musical genius he is today…,” Palmer, who was once a protege of Kelly’s, posted to Instagram on Jan. 10. “All to put others through the same darkness he was running from is the most disheartening thing to accept. Many people experience hardships and do not allow themselves to find freedom through their passion enough to shine a light. R. Kelly received that grace from God. God blessed him to vindicate his childhood shortcomings and yet still he has slapped God in the face by his actions towards these women. I am hurt and saddened because he could have been a blessing to these women but instead he repeatedly took advantage and that I can not accept. I will stand by my sisters because that’s simply what’s right and what I hope discontinues this behavior in anyone. We have to be good to each other, not all of us accept the light but those of us that do must be responsible!!!! We can not take advantage of each other or accept when someone else does.”
Jada Pinkett Smith
“I just watched [Surviving R. Kelly] with my daughter Willow,” Smith posted to Instagram on Jan. 5. “It was tough to watch but deeply important. It brought up A LOT for us both. Mothers and fathers ... it’s tough content but it’s important we have conversations with both our daughters and sons around the many issues in this docuseries. It’s well done and makes it clear that we gotta do better ... in so many ways.”
I did watch that and I immediately talked to my daughter afterwards… and my son,” the 39-year-old comedian told Andy Cohen. “Just makes you understand that you have to be present. You have to be present. You have to talk to your kids.”
“I don’t even wanna use the word ‘unfortunate’ because that’s the wrong word,” he continued. “It’s sad. And what you realize is that you’re looking at a real damaged individual. This is past perverted or sick. This is some other sh*t.”
“My heart goes out to all the victims of his emotional and physical abuse and their families,” the model posted to Instagram on Jan. 10. This man is a predator that feeds off power and in my opinion is far worse than Harvey Weinstein and needs to be held accountable. I am not trying to compare the two, my point is, Harvey is being investigated and R Kelly is not. We have ourselves to blame in this situation, I knew of the allegations but failed to try and understand the severity of the situation. I still continued to listen to his music. Stop separating art from the artist, just because he sings like an angel, doesn’t mean he is one.”
“#SurvivingRKelly is the #1 trending topic on @twitter. Amen. Speaking truth to power,” the actress posted to Twitter on Jan. 3.
“I looked up to this man very very much as a writer as a songwriter and all that, but none of this behavior is acceptable,” the actor said in a video posted to Instagram on Jan. 6.
This list will be updated as more prominent names speak out.