RCA Records drops R. Kelly

NEW YORK • R. Kelly - once one of the biggest and most influential stars in pop music - was dropped by his record company, RCA Records, last Friday, in the music industry's highest-profile casualty of the #MeToo era.

RCA's agreement to part ways with Kelly, confirmed by a person briefed on the move who declined to be identified because the deal was confidential, came after weeks of protests.

A recent television documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, drew wide attention for its visceral testimonials by women who said that as underage girls they had been lured into sexual relationships with Kelly and abused by him mentally and physically.

Activists who had been calling for his dismissal cheered the decision, while still criticising RCA for its slow pace, and they pushed the entertainment industry to punish him further.

"After years of profiting from R. Kelly, despite their knowledge of his sexual abuse of black girls, Sony's RCA is finally acting," Ms Arisha Hatch of the group Color of Change said in a statement.

Accusations of misconduct by Kelly, 52, date to the mid-1990s, when it was revealed that, at 27, he secretly married his 15-year-old protegee, Aaliyah; their marriage certificate falsely listed her age as 18.

Lurid reports of misconduct followed, including accounts from women who said Kelly had sex with them when they were as young as 15.

Kelly, whose real name is Robert Sylvester Kelly, has denied abusing or mistreating any women. Mr Don Russell, who identified himself as the "top adviser" to Kelly, said last Friday other labels were interested in signing Kelly, though he declined to identify them.


Public opinion began to turn against Kelly again in 2017, after an investigation published by BuzzFeed News said he had been holding women against their will in an abusive "cult". Online outrage over that reporting led to a social media campaign, #MuteRKelly.

Terms of his exit deal, including what, if anything, RCA paid him to terminate the contract, were not disclosed. According to the person briefed on the talks, RCA had been discussing the move for months with his legal team, well before the release of the Lifetime documentary, but after the #MuteRKelly movement had gained momentum.

Kelly, who won three Grammys in 1998 for his song I Believe I Can Fly, has been dogged for years by accusations, but has never been convicted of a crime.

He was acquitted in Chicago on child pornography charges in 2008, in a case that involved a tape that prosecutors said showed him having sex with a 13-year-old girl. But the girl in the video did not testify and Kelly's lawyers argued that her identity could not be proven.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2019, with the headline 'RCA Records drops R. Kelly'. Print Edition | Subscribe