Advertisement

After ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ criminal investigations begin while his label stays silent

Tracking the R. Kelly fallout — and the "no comments" — following Lifetime's searing docuseries.

Demonstrators gather near the studio of singer R. Kelly to call for a boycott of his music after allegations of sexual abuse against young girls were raised on the highly-rated Lifetime mini-series 'Surviving R. Kelly.' (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather near the studio of singer R. Kelly to call for a boycott of his music after allegations of sexual abuse against young girls were raised on the highly-rated Lifetime mini-series 'Surviving R. Kelly.' (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In its first days on the air, Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly reached 18.8 million viewers. 

The information in the docuseries is, for the most part, not new. In fact, the R&B icon’s troubling history of sexual predation has been reported on extensively, and many of the women whose accounts provide the cable series’ most searing details had previously told their stories in other venues. But there is something about the power of seeing them on screen, one after the other after the other. There is something unique about consuming six straight hours of this story, of seeing decades of evidence and testimony, once scattered and selectively forgotten, compiled in one place.

The first story about Kelly’s reported sexual pursuit and relationships with girls as young as 15 came out in December 2000. The #MuteRKelly campaign launched in July 2017. But as is often the process for a seismic cultural shift, what has been building slowly over years and years suddenly feels like it’s blowing up overnight. Now, the world is talking about R. Kelly and his reported decades of sexual predation: How his victims have almost exclusively been children; how the music industry and much of the media have looked the other way while he bragged about his sexual exploits in his songs; how there are still young women living in his properties in what BuzzFeed has reported is a “cult” over which Kelly violently rules.

Advertisement

Read on for a full list of everything that’s happened to Kelly since the docuseries aired — and, just as crucially, which entities and individuals are still standing by the star.

Criminal investigations are now underway in Chicago and Atlanta

Prosecutors in Chicago are asking any victims or witnesses to share information with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which says they’ve received “numerous” calls describing Kelly’s alleged abuse.

As the New York Times reported, Kimberly M. Foxx, the Cook County state’s attorney, told the public at a news conference on Tuesday, “Please come forward. There’s nothing that can be done to investigate these allegations without the cooperation of both victims and witnesses. We cannot seek justice without you.”

After Foxx’s callout, two women contacted prosecutors with new allegations against Kelly.

As the Chicago Sun-Times reports, “Neither woman lives in Chicago, but both said they were the victims of inappropriate conduct by Kelly in the city — one in a home on the South Side in the mid-1980s and the other at the R&B singer’s warehouse/studio space in the 200 block of North Justine in 2002.”

Advertisement

Foxx has been the state’s attorney for Cook County, Ill., since November 2016. Which is to say, she had this job when the BuzzFeed piece about Kelly’s abusive cult came out in July 2017 and, as far as has been reported, did not do anything to pursue the Kelly case until this week.

In Georgia, Fulton County investigators were “flooded” with calls after the docuseries aired, TMZ first reported: “We’re told the probe was launched over the past few days as a direct result of what Surviving depicted.” Investigators have connected with Asante McGee, one of the women who says she escaped from Kelly’s home. Chief investigator Cynthia Nwokocha has been in touch with Joycelyn Savage’s family attorney as well. (Savage’s parents say their daughter has been “brainwashed” by Kelly and that they haven’t seen her since December 2016.)

Paul L. Howard, Jr., is serving his sixth term as the Fulton County district attorney. He has held this office since 1997. Like Foxx, he did not attempt to investigate the Kelly case until this week.

Some (but not all) radio stations are pulling Kelly’s music

Per Rolling Stone, two prominent radio stations in Dallas — hip-hop and R&B station K104 and KRNB, which plays contemporary and ‘90s R&B — announced on Monday they would no longer play Kelly’s music. In a statement, Service Broadcasting said the decision by Smooth R&B 105.7 and K104 was made “due to the outpouring of concern from our listeners regarding Kelly’s alleged sexual assaults of underage girls.”

During an on-air segment, KRNB morning show host Claudia Jordan said:

“Up against the background of what we know … where there were girls actually locked up in rooms and urinating in buckets and held against their will, even if they were over 18, [Kelly’s music] just has a different meaning now. I just feel like, in good conscience, we just can’t continue to support this guy.

Sadly there are a lot of people out there and what they do in their work – they are talented people – but they have demons. And I feel like as a woman that is an advocate for other women … we cannot support this man anymore. I’ve been a victim of abuse from a man, and it wasn’t as extreme as this. But reading all the comments, we have to at some point take a stance.”

Urban One, which as Rolling Stone notes “is currently responsible for 57 broadcast stations in 15 urban markets in the United States and reaches many R&B listeners,” has not announced a policy regarding Kelly or his music. And three of the nation’s biggest radio conglomerates, iHeartMedia (which has more than 850 stations), Cumulus Media (400+ stations), and Entercom (more than 200), have also made no comment about playing Kelly.

Lady Gaga apologized for working with Kelly

Lady Gaga was one of many musicians who’d worked with Kelly in the past but declined to appear in Surviving R. Kelly. (According to director dream hampton, the only artist who agreed to participate was John Legend.) Lady Gaga collaborated with Kelly in 2013 on a song called “Do What U Want (With My Body),” which they performed together at the American Music Awards and on Saturday Night Live.

Advertisement

Lady Gaga is a survivor of sexual assault and has advocated for sexual violence victims in the past; in 2016, she wrote and performed “‘Til It Happens to You,” for The Hunting Ground, a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses.

Thursday morning, she tweeted out a lengthy statement of support for the survivors along with a condemnation of and explanation for her own work with Kelly. She announced her intention to have the song removed from iTunes and streaming services and said she “will not be working with him again. I am sorry, both for my poor judgment when I was young, and for not speaking out sooner.”

Meanwhile, Kelly remains on his record label and is still a member of the Recording Academy

The Recording Academy, the body of musicians and music professionals that votes on the Grammys, still counts Kelly as a member. He was last nominated in 2014. His official artist page makes no mentions of the allegations against him. The Recording Academy has not returned repeated requests for comment on Kelly’s membership status.

Kelly remains on RCA Records, which is owned by Sony. Kelly has been at RCA for the duration of his solo career. (Jive Records, to which Kelly was previously signed, merged with RCA in 2007.) His most recent RCA release was a 2016 Christmas album.

The label has not commented on the matter. However, on Friday — the second of three days on which Surviving R. Kelly first aired — RCA did announce a new deal with Chris Brown, who pled guilty to a 2009 assault of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, and whose name has made headlines for his various arrests, alleged violent misconduct, and similarly charming incidents in the intervening years.