R. Kelly Responds to Spotify Removing His Music From Its Playlists After Time's Up's #MuteRKelly Campaign
By Antoinette Bueno
Spotify is no longer promoting R. Kelly's music.
In a statement on Thursday, the streaming service announced that under its new public hate content & hateful conduct policy, the company will cease to include the singer's music in any of its playlists and algorithmic recommendations, though his music will still be available on the platform. The decision comes after the Women of Color of Time’s Up -- a subcommittee of the larger group focused on issues that affect women and girls of color -- called for corporations and venues with ties with the R&B singer to drop him in response to decades of sexual assault allegations facing the musician, which Kelly has previously vehemently denied.
"We are removing R. Kelly’s music from all Spotify owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations such as Discover Weekly," Spotify said in a statement to ET. "His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it."
"We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior, but we want our editorial decisions -- what we choose to program -- to reflect our values," the statement continues. "When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator."
In a statement to ET, Kelly's management said the singer has "never been accused of hate" and that his lyrics express "love and desire."
"We appreciate Spotify for continuing to make R. Kelly’s songs accessible to millions of people, although it will stop listing his songs on its official playlists," the statement reads. "Spotify is adopting a new 'Hate Content & Hateful Conduct' policy. R Kelly never has been accused of hate, and the lyrics he writes express love and desire. Mr. Kelly for 30 years has sung songs about his love and passion for women. He is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him, waged by enemies seeking a payoff. He never has been convicted of a crime, nor does he have any pending criminal charges against him."
"Spotify has the right to promote whatever music it chooses, and in this case its actions are without merit," the statement continues. "It is acting based on false and unproven allegations. It is bowing to social-media fads and picking sides in a fame-seeking dispute over matters that have nothing to do with serving customers. Meanwhile, though, Spotify promotes numerous other artists who are convicted felons, others who have been arrested on charges of domestic violence and artists who sing lyrics that are violent and anti-women in nature. Mr. Kelly falls into none of these categories, and it is unfortunate and shortsighted that Spotify fails to recognize this."
Spotify's hate content & hateful conduct policy states that the streaming service does not permit "hate content" on the platform and will remove it whenever they find it.
"We believe in openness, diversity, tolerance and respect, and we want to promote those values through music and the creative arts," Spotify's website reads. "This policy is designed to do that, consistent with our distinct roles in music and media -- from distribution to promotion to co-creation."
Earlier this month, the Women of Color of Time's Up specifically called for RCA Records, Ticketmaster, Spotify and Apply Music to drop Kelly, and said the group would be joining the existing online campaign called #MuteRKelly.
"The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause," Time's Up's statement reads in part. "With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly’s abuse made by women of color and their families for over two decades now. And we declare with great vigilance and a united voice to anyone who wants to silence us: Their time is up. Together, We Are Strong."
Time’s Up also asked for Kelly's concert on May 11 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in North Carolina to be canceled, though as of press time, the concert is still on. According to The Chicago Tribune, Kelly's critics are threatening to stage a protest at the venue if it isn't canceled. Previously, Kelly was dropped from the lineup of a Chicago concert on May 5, as protests arose.
Kelly's management has responded to the campaign against him, calling the criticism on the 51-year-old singer "unjust and off-target."
"R. Kelly supports the pro-women goals of the Time’s Up movement," the statement reads. "We understand criticizing a famous artist is a good way to draw attention to those goals -- and in this case, it is unjust and off-target. We fully support the rights of women to be empowered to make their own choices. Time’s Up has neglected to speak with any of the women who welcome R. Kelly’s support, and it has rushed to judgment without the facts. Soon it will become clear Mr. Kelly is the target of a greedy, conscious and malicious conspiracy to demean him, his family and the women with whom he spends his time."
"R. Kelly’s music is a part of American and African-American culture that should never --and will never -- be silenced," the statement continues. "Since America was born, black men and women have been lynched for having sex or for being accused of it. We will vigorously resist this attempted public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture."
Meanwhile, a number of celebrities have spoken out about their support for the #MuteRKelly campaign, including Ava DuVernay, John Legend, Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington and Ashley Judd.
Kelly made headlines in the '90s, when Vibe magazine published what appeared to be the marriage certificate between a then 15-year-old Aaliyah -- his protegee at the time -- and 27-year-old Kelly. The document falsely stated she was 18. Their marriage was reportedly annulled months later.
While Kelly has never been convicted of a crime, in 2003, he was arrested on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor after a videotape was leaked that allegedly showed him engaging in sex with, and urinating on, an underage girl. In March 2004, those charges were dropped due to a lack of probable cause for the search warrants.
Last July, Buzzfeed News reported explosive allegations that Kelly was holding women against their will in an abusive "cult." In a statement obtained by ET at the time, Kelly's lawyer denied the allegations.
"Mr. Robert Kelly is both alarmed and disturbed at the recent revelations attributed to him," the statement read. "Mr. Kelly unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name."