It wasn’t so long ago that R. Kelly was literally everywhere. After breaking away from the group Public Announcement in the early 1990s, he released a chart smashing solo-album.
At one point in his career, he was dubbed the King of R&B by MTV. I mean, it’s hard to blame them as his songs skipped from sex symbol ballads to suave bad-boy story-telling with ease. But, time has not been kind to R.Kelly. Between serious allegations, gossip, and bad missteps, he’s gone from hero to zero very quickly.
R.Kelly got his breakthrough in 1989 when he, and three other guys, participated in a talent show called Big Break, which they ended up winning. By 1992, he had his first album with Public Announcement, and popularity from the show.
Kelly was the lead singer of the group, and they would end up going on tour together. By 1993, Kelly saw bigger opportunities as a solo artist and he disbanded from the group.
His First Number One
His first solo album, 12 Play, yielded the singer’s first number one hit, “Bump N’ Grind.” The album was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, and eventually went six times platinum.
At this point, in 1994, he was basically a household name in the music industry. He was then considered someone who almost everybody wanted to work with. This is when he met singer and songwriter, Aaliyah.
He Took Her Under His Wing
He took Aaliyah under his wing right from the beginning of her career. He wrote and produced every song on her debut album, which ended up selling over three million records. We’ll come back to the whole R. Kelly / Aaliyah drama later.
By 1995, he had grabbed his first couple of Grammy nominations. His second album, released in 1995 as well, also ended up reaching number one. It ended up going four-times platinum.
He Played Professional Basketball
By 1996, he snagged his first three Grammy Awards for the smash hit “I Believe I Can Fly” which, if you don’t know every word to by this point, you were probably born in the 2000s.
This was another number one hit and was featured in the movie Space Jam. This would be a smooth transition into Kelly signing a contract to play professional basketball with the Atlantic City Seagulls in 1997.
Basketball Seemed To Help
He wanted to put his music to the side for a minute, and fulfill a dream that he’s had for many years. The contract he signed still allowed him to fulfill a music obligation if he had to.
He was the first professional music artist to also end up playing professional basketball. Even though he was playing some ball, it didn’t stop his musica success at all. In fact, it seemed to help.
His Most Successful Album
In 1998, he released his most successful album to date. It was titled R, and was the first album that he let other producers get in on the action with a few of his songs.
He would go on to sell 8 million copies, which would be the most sales he would amass on an album. It also sparked a few other number one hits. This background knowledge of his music is very important because it paints just how successful and popular R.Kelly was at one point.
He’s A Paradigm Shifter
Some people forget that R.Kelly wasn’t just some R&B musician — he was a paradigm shifter for the industry in many ways. A lot of young people who didn’t grow up in the 90s just know him from his single Ignition, which was released in 2003 and is one of his most successful songs.
He was a superstar. Everything he touched went gold. He had the world at his feet, but scandals got in the way.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? All the suspect behavior started in 1994 when he secretly married 15-year-old Aaliyah. He was 27 at the time, and was her mentor. As I mentioned before, he produced and wrote every song on her first album.
It wasn’t until a few years later that Vibe magazine was able to obtain the marriage certificate from the ceremony that falsely claimed Aaliyah was 18 at the time.
The Documents Were Sealed
The marriage happened in Illinois, but it was officially annulled in Detroit, Michigan. The two of them promised that they would never speak of the incident in public. In 1997, Aaliyah sued in order to have the false marriage certificate expunged from the record.
A Cook County judge ended up sealing documents the same year. But, the damage had already been done, and the public became aware of the secret wedding.
The First Of Many
In 1996, R.Kelly was charged for battery after a fight broke out during a basketball game. One of the local players who got hurt during the incident needed 110 stitches, and filed a federal suit against Kelly and three other men.
The singer didn’t make the court hearing, but in August 1997, he settled the suit out of court. The Louisiana District Attorney decided that Kelly’s entourage was responsible for the bulk of the violence, which lessened the charges against the singer.
The Inappropriate Allegations From Minors
All Kelly ended up getting from the basketball incident was 12-months of unsupervised probation. But, the drama wouldn’t stop for Kelly. In 1996, he faced another lawsuit, this time from a woman named Tiffany Hawkins.
She alleged that when she was 15, and he was 24, he “engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with her, including but not limited to engaging in group sexual intercourse with her and other minors.” She was seeking $10 million in damages.
She Attempted Suicide
Hawkins says that she attempted suicide when Kelly broke off the relationship. Kelly counter-sued the same day, claiming that she was demanding money from him and spreading “false allegations” that he fathered her child.
The suit ended up getting settled for $250,000 in 1998. Kelly’s lawyer didn’t have much to say after the settlement, but basically just acknowledged that both of the parties made complaints against each other and they didn’t want to deal with it any longer.
The Fax That Would Change The Narrative
The year 2000 was a defining year for R. Kelly. A reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times received an anonymous fax after he reviewed the latest R. Kelly album for the newspaper.
The fax was alleging that the Chicago Police sex crimes unit was investigating Kelly. The journalist who got the fax was named Jim DeRogatis, and working with his colleague Abdon M. Pallasch, they were able to confirm the details about the sex crimes investigations.
No Witnesses Wanted To Speak
The problem was that they couldn’t find any witnesses that were willing to come forward. But, they caught a break in 2001. The Sun-Times received another item sent to them by someone anonymous. This time, it was a video that the paper believes to show Kelly having intercourse with an underage partner.
Reporters passed the footage onto the police department because it could contain evidence of a felony. The video was VERY graphic.
The Intern At Epic
The police couldn’t identify the age or name of the woman in the video. The bootleg version of the video ended up circulating around the world nonetheless.
Another incident in 2001 was when Tracy Sampson, an intern at Epic Records, filed a civil suit against Kelly for $50,000. She claims that she was forced into receiving oral sex from a girl she didn’t want to have intercourse with. She claims she was 17 at the time.
Two More Women Speak Out
Sampson said that she was often treated as Kelly’s personal sex object and cast aside. That Sampson case was also settled for an unknown amount.
In 2002, more of the same for Kelly. Patrice Jones filed a $50,000 suit against Kelly claiming that he had sex with her when she was 16, got her pregnant, and pushed her to have an abortion. The next month, another woman named Montina Woods filed a suit saying he taped her while having sex.
Another Tape Surfaces
Woods says that the video was made without her knowledge, and once again, Kelly settled for an undisclosed amount of money for both of the women. Woods received the money in exchange for a nondisclosure agreement, which is why we don’t hear from her at all.
In 2002, ANOTHER tape was sent to The Sun-Times with no name. It looked to show Kelly with another girl. He claims his innocence during this time.
The second tape led to Kelly’s indictment on 21 child pornography charges in Illinois. He was arrested in 2003 in Florida. During the arrest, police seize a camera that is also said to contain images of intercourse with a minor.
Florida indicted Kelly on 12 more counts of child pornography. He maintains his innocence and pleaded not guilty. His spokesman said at the time that the additional charges are just looking to make headlines.
Most Of His Counts Were Dropped
Kelly was summoned to court in 2004 in Illinois. Seven counts of child pornography were dropped, leaving him with 14 more. A judge ruled that the search of Kelly’s property in Florida was undertaken without sufficient evidence.
So, he ordered that 12 more counts were to be dropped as well. To say that he got off lucky would be an understatement. By 2005, Kelly was gaining some ground back because of the blurriness of the video.
When Was The Tape Made?
In a court hearing, a friend of the girl who appears in the video in the second tape says she was 14 at the time, which corroborates what the victim’s aunt told The Sun-Times when the paper received the tape initially.
Much of the conversation revolved around when the tape was made. Prosecutors were able to winnow it down to a period between 1998 and 2000, but that wasn’t good enough.
He Was Let Off
The judge says that Kelly cannot be expected to prove an alibi over that many months. The judge said he would make his ruling accordingly if the prosecution can’t prove anything more.
Kelly would finally go on trial in 2008 after numerous delays on his child pornography charges. He never took the stand and neither did the girl in the tape or her parents. The defense argued the identity of the girl was inconclusive.
Too Much “Grayness”
The prosecution brought out 14 witnesses to identify her. A jury of nine men and three women ruled that Kelly was not guilty. A juror would go on to say that all of them felt the “grayness” in the case.
Jim DeRogatis wasn’t done with exposing Kelly. By 2013, he estimates that he had spoken to “two dozen women” about the singer’s sex crimes. He also had another bombshell in the works.
Keeping It Hush Hush
DeRogatis published a detailed report of his findings in 2013 which forced Kelly to defend himself. After being cornered in multiple interviews with New York Magazine and GQ, he claims that he cannot talk about the video or the idea that he likes young girls because his lawyers won’t let him.
Fast forward to 2017, and no, he hasn’t mellowed out of the headlines. A police officer in Mississippi filed a suit against Kelly.
“Ruined My Life Forever”
He claims that Kelly was having an affair with his wife and that it “irreparably injured said relationship”.
Apparently, the singer and the police officer’s wife had a romantic relationship before the couple married, and rekindled it after the marriage as well. The officer claims his wife moved to Georgia to be closer to Kelly. Just because your wife cheats on you, doesn’t mean the other person should be sued.
Another Bombshell In 2017
He was in financial ruin afterward because he couldn’t find a job in the area. He also claims that Kelly gave his wife an STD and didn’t tell her. Kelly denies all of these claims and says that he doesn’t owe the police officer a dime of his money.
But, that wouldn’t stop the 2017 drama for Kelly. Jim DeRogatis was at it again. This time, he published a bombshell story on Buzzfeed.
The Cult Leader
He alleges that there are six women who live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and Atlanta and he controls every aspect of their lives. He controls when they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, and when they sleep.
One of the alleged girl’s mother said that when she talked to her daughter, it was as if she was brainwashed. She accuses Kelly of holding her daughter against her own will.
The “Hostage Tape”
A representative for Kelly responded with a statement that denied any allegation against him. He says that any of the girls are free to leave whenever they want to. One of the girls even did a webcam interview with TMZ to try to disprove the claims.
Many people said the girl’s responses looked planned and almost “hostage tape-y”. DeRogatis and many others have said that it’s almost like R. Kelly is running some kind of cult.
The Record Labels Turned A Blind Eye
A Washington Post article that was published in May 2018, alleges that the music industry executives have turned a blind eye to Kelly’s misconduct. The accusations go as far back as 1994, when Jive Records founder Clive Calder was told by Kelly’s tour manager to not release any records if he continued to have “incidents” with women after every concert.
The article also outlined that record label employees had to sign non-disclosure agreements when Kelly was recording.
Controversy Following Him Into 2018
They said that they weren’t allowed to enter certain rooms when he was there. They believed that those were the rooms Kelly made the women stay in when he was working.
The newspaper published text message exchanges between Kelly’s assistants and the girls locked in the rooms asking to go to the bathroom. There were also pictures taken of urine cups and urine-stained floors in some rooms where the girls were staying.
He Remains Relevant
Despite all of this, he remains relevant in the industry. I mean, it’s hard not to when you’ve broken Guinness World Records, have three Grammys, two AMAs, one BET award, 11 Soul Train Awards, and numerous Billboard Music Awards.
Not only that, but he’s headlined 11 tours across the world and even co-headlined a tour with Jay-Z. By the looks of it, he isn’t stopping anytime soon, but his legal troubles seem to be following him along the way.