Opinion: Fans cannot separate an artist from their music, as is case with R. Kelly

The #MuteRKelly movement is encouraging R. Kelly’s fans to stop listening to and supporting his music.


“In the Shadow of R. Kelly,” by Matthew Marguiles

Makayla Purvis, Contributing Writer

In my household, I grew up listening to R. Kelly’s music, and even though I didn’t necessarily understand the full content of what he was singing about, I supported him and his music. My family and I would always dance to Step in the Name of Love at family gatherings and just have a good time.


I Believe I Can Flywas an inspirational song that was sung by church choirs and empowered me to believe that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to. It was also played at graduation ceremonies to show graduating seniors that they can become something greater in society and make a change in the world. It was hard for me to believe that a talented guy who can sing a soulful song like that can be a child predator.


Currently, a debate is going on as to whether individuals can separate an artist from their music.

I honestly believe that we can normally separate the artist from the music, except for in this circumstance.


Going all the way back to the 1990s, R&B singer R. Kelly was fighting against sexual accusations in the city of Chicago within a year after he gained popularity for his successful song, “Bump n’ Grind” in 1993. Yet, despite the evidence that was shown against him, his fans continued to support him and his music.


Now the singer has faced deserved criticism from social media, and criminal charges, after a six-part mini-documentary series called Surviving R. Kelly aired at the beginning of 2019. The three-day series features interviews from R. Kelly’s staff, family members, and critics along with at least five women who testified against the longtime beloved singer, accusing him of sexual and physical abuse.


Each woman revealed their story of how they became intertwined in his scandalous lifestyle. After hearing all of the details, viewers will realize why our society turned their back on R. Kelly’s festivities and will decide if they can continue to listen to his music.


The movement created by this scandal is called the #MuteRKelly movement, which is another part of the controversial #MeToo movement that has grown in popularity in the past two years.


Fans started calling for streaming services and the radio to mute R. Kelly’s music and prevent it from being played. The movement gradually began in 2018 but didn’t officially ignite until 2019 after the documentary series premiered.


R. Kelly has a lot of sexual songs that are actually inspired by real-life circumstances and underage women that he continues to abuse, past and in the present.


For example, R. Kelly helped the late R&B singer, Aaliyah, with her songAge Ain’t Nothing But A Number,” which is about the relationship he had with her when she was 14 years old.


One victim’s story is incredibly heartbreaking, and that is of R. Kelly’s ex-wife, Andrea Lee. She met him when she was 19 years old and he was 29 years old. Lee was an outgoing backup dancer for R. Kelly when she first met him.


After they got married, she became a quiet person who never spoke to anyone and was isolated from the rest of her friends. She always stayed at their shared house, and whenever guests would come over for R. Kelly she had to ask him permission to eat food or leave the bedroom.


Simone Stewart, a senior sociology major and director of purchasing for the FAU chapter of the National Organization of Women otherwise known as NOW, said that “It happens to women all the time, and he’s still free. No one really cares. Before the documentary came about, I’ve known the allegations for years, but he’s doing what he’s doing. A lot of people remove themselves from the music and don’t see it as it being supportive.”


I can’t even listen to my favorite songs anymore because of his abuse towards these young women. If I were to continue to listen to his music, I would be supporting the psychological and physical abuse that he has implanted in the young women’s memories. By listening to his music, supporters will help R Kelly continue to make money off of his music.


Not only were they young women that hadn’t fully matured yet and didn’t know any better, but he targeted women who were underage, 14-year-olds and up, and more specifically, of color. He only interacted with African-American and one Latina women who looked up to him and were aspiring artists.


He destroyed their childhood and has no regret for doing so. In fact, R. Kelly was caught on film saying that the #MuteRKelly campaign is “too late.” Even though he’s been receiving criticism and a bad reputation, he is still making a profit off of music that his supporters continue to listen to. After the documentary, his on-demand streaming sales spiked up significantly from 1.9 million to 4.3 million.


I believe it is incredibly sad that there are people who still support him, and instead of blaming the perpetrator, they place the blame on the victims and their families. Some people on social media say that the victims should’ve been smart and known better instead of acting like “fast groupies.”


Joi Dean, a sophomore marketing major and president of the FAU NOW, states “They are actually underage and can’t really give consent. I think that we should stop blaming the victims and talk about consent more.”


Marcella Callejas, junior multimedia major and director of social media for FAU NOW, stated “We can prevent this from happening by teaching girls how they should be treated. He was a comforting figure for them since he was an idol. At some point, they should know, ‘this isn’t how I should be treated.’”

R. Kelly would use his authoritative celebrity power to manipulate and control young women. He would use them for sexual acts, sex tapes, and then pimp victims out to his close friends, who encouraged his despicable actions. He would control the teenager’s actions and behaviors by locking them in rooms, punishing them if they stepped out of line, and dictating when they could eat, use the bathroom, or go to places.


People close to R. Kelly knew that he was controlling these women and never tried to stop it. Instead, they just enabled it and did whatever he asked them to do.

R. Kelly’s entourage, as well as his tour managers, backup dancers, and others, should have stepped up and said something even if it might have ruined their career opportunity with him. If you see something, you must step up and say something.


Instead of blaming the victims who went through traumatic experiences, blame the perpetrator for his actions as well as people close to him who continued to encourage and support him even though they knew of his behavior.


People must show R. Kelly that he’s not an invincible individual by choosing to discontinue listening to his music.


Makayla Purvis is a contributing writer of the University Press. Her email is [email protected]