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Is It Wrong to Listen to R. Kelly’s Songs?

Updated: Aug 19, 2021 08:33
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I was a teenager during the 1990’s and, like so many people my age who are fans of the Hip-Hop and R&B of that era, I grew up listening to R. Kelly. It’s hard to decide whether or not I’m supposed to play his music now, because let’s face it: His tracks are spectacular, but these allegations are despicable.

This is a question I never thought I’d be asking myself, but with Robert Kelly’s trial now beginning (he was jailed in 2019), I want to know the same thing as everybody else: is it wrong to still listen to his songs?

I’ll say this. It’s hard to imagine Kenyette Tisha Barnes, Co-Founder of the #MuteRKelly Movement, dancing in her bathroom mirror to “Feeling On Your Booty”. Not because she doesn’t have any booty to feel on but because she feels that, with all of these horribly repulsive sex allegations, his music should not be played again. A lot of people agree with her. Hell, I even feel a little guilty these days when I find myself nodding my head to “Honey Love”…but should I? I mean, it’s hard to stop liking a song that I’ve liked since I was 10 years old!

That being said, I need to make one “public announcement” (and if you didn’t get that, then you don’t know a damn thing about his music lol). I think these allegations are disgustingly perverted, and he should go to jail if he is found guilty. But, even the New York Times did a report saying how hard it was going to be to mute R&B legend R. Kelly.

I mean, think about it. Are you going to look up every single song that he wrote or produced for other people and decide not to listen to it again, just because he had something to do with it? Would that be fair to the artist that he worked or collaborated with? They didn’t pee on anybody, he did, at least according to Dave Chappelle.

“I love R. Kelly, but around my daughters I’m not comfortable…” raps Atlanta MC Ludacris on one of his songs, and he actually had to explain to Big Tigger on the radio why he said it. It’s because he’s a fan of his music, not his actions. Even when those charges came up in New York about Kelly allegedly giving an underage girl herpes, an STD that causes bumps, you can bet that somebody somewhere is still bumping “Bump & Grind” loudly, whether they want to admit it or not.

The truth is that, the very fact that this case exists, is going to make it ever so hard to mute R. Kelly’s music. People who have never heard of him but read about him being a rapist, sexual abuser, and pedophile may likely end up researching his music, to see what it is. And since it’s really good, they’ll probably like it too.

So what are you gonna do? Will you go to stop listening to R. Kelly?

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  1. Brian
    August 18, 2021 at 9:22 pm — Reply

    It’s definitely a valid feeling. I was reminded of Nick Cave who was asked about his feelings on Morressey – Yes it is not exactly the same and yet I think it deals with a similar thought process that many of us goes through.

    • October 11, 2021 at 12:33 am — Reply

      I don’t agree with what he did, if these allegations turn out to be true. But, like you said, I believe that a lot of folks are thinking about whether or not the music should die. Thanks for your comment.

  2. erin
    August 19, 2021 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    If the author had read the MuteRKelly website he referenced ( I doubt he’d still be asking himself this question, let alone writing an article about it. Same goes to the publisher Stuart. I’m appalled.

    Also who gave you permission to publicly comment on Kenyette’s booty?

    R Kelly has been cancelled for years. If you’re singing it at karaoke you’ll get boo’d off stage. Sit down.

    • August 21, 2021 at 11:57 am — Reply

      1 – he wasn’t commenting on Ms. Barnes’ derriere directly, he was making a pun on the title of one of Kelly’s songs (something he does frequently in this short posts);

      2 – understanding the #MuteRKelly movement (which is valid) doesn’t address the subjective emotional reaction one has to the work of a terrible person. Just look at all the LGBTQI folks with conflicted feelings about JK Rowling: they still love her work, but can’t stand the author herself (and with good reason).

      3 – you should try watching Lindsay Ellis’s videos (particularly “Death of the Author” Pts. 1 and 2″ and “Dead Genres Tell No Tales”) to get an idea of how and why even the best people would continue to support the work of someone terrible, even knowing what they’ve done.

      Your condescending “sit down” comment (especially coming from you, a white woman, to the Black man who wrote the above piece) is you not recognising your own privilege and you missing a chance to foster the very intersectionality that actually WOULD silence people like JK Rowling, R. Kelly, Woody Allen, and more.

  3. October 11, 2021 at 12:29 am — Reply

    Mr. Lewis, you stood up for me, and I appreciate that. I was just writing my thoughts, and she got so offended! I visited your site, The Thinking Man’s Idiot ( I’m looking through it now, and I’m just so happy to run into another person, a Black man, who enjoys the craft of writing as much as I still do. God Bless you, and I’m gonna share your site and study your past work.

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