R Kelly News and Docuseries Prompt Student Reaction

By Veronique Irizarry

Little regard comes with lyrics of mainstream music. Often younger audiences seem to ignore how degrading the underlying meaning of a popular three-minute song can become.

An example of a song with a hidden yet obvious meaning, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” The lyrics say: “Take my hand And come with me And let me show you to ecstasy Boy be brave, don’t be afraid ‘Cause tonight we’re gonna go all the way.”

The 1994 song was written by R. Kelly, then 27, and performed by 15-year-old Aaliyah.

Lifetime network’s “Surviving R. Kelly” docuseries drew attention to testimonies of multiple women who claimed sexual violence, pedophilia and predatory acts against the artist.

Kelly was also charged in Chicago with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse Friday, according to multiple reports citing court records.

The series provides an uncomfortable visual of what the women of the “abusive cult” went through, and a larger step forward in the #MeToo movement. Multiple women and artists came out to expose singer songwriter Robert Kelly over the years.

Kelly is one of many accused of sexual misconduct since the start of #MeToo. Over 250 celebrities, politicians, CEOs, and other men have been accused of various sexual acts since April 2017.

“The R. Kelly docuseries was very disturbing to watch as a teenager, knowing these girls were close to my age,” said Lauryn Benjamin, a Seminole State freshman.

“I’m glad the series came out so people would actually pay close attention to what he actually did and reprimand him. Our generation is finally speaking out against what’s wrong.”

For years Kelly remained in plain sight while going on trial in 2002 on 21 counts of child pornography (for which he was acquitted six years later) and still producing songs like “Ignition” that hit top charts.

“People don’t care,” said Ayanna Malone, also a freshman. “All this happened before sexual assault stigmas were broken and there was a lot of victim blaming. It was put off as a joke in media because of how ridiculous the situation was. It was a clear warning sign but was passed off as a joke.”

It has been reported that Kelly held multiple women in a studio located in Chicago, a residence that is still considered dangerous, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The building remains in residential use, and Kelly will be evicted if he doesn’t pay $173,000 back in fees including rent.

The singer continues to face backlash as he was recently dropped from RCA/Sony Records, and the #MuteRKelly movement continues to attempt to wipe the artist’s music from radio and streaming networks like Spotify and Apple Music.

“I feel like celebrities constantly have rumors and scandals,” said Valencia College student Jamilia Garcia, “and when this started he was really likable at the time so I feel like people didn’t want to believe that he could do something like that, I feel like people passed it off as a rumor since it was too crazy to believe, people were too naïve to what actually goes on in Hollywood.”

Many allegations have surfaced over the years toward the singer/songwriter and for some it has been hard to believe that one who was once a boy with a dream and passion for music, not knowing how to read or write well, but learning the ins and outs of music, could turn into what some have described as a monster.

However, there were reports of questionable acts at the beginning stages of Kelly’s career.

In 1994, rhythm and blues singer Aaliyah recorded her first album with Kelly, “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number”. She was 15 years old and Kelly was in his late 20s.

In 1995, their marriage certificate became public through Vibe magazine, where Aaliyah’s age was falsified to 18. Neither commented on the certificate.

Since Aaliyah was underage at the time, her family was able to annul the marriage and successfully expunged all the records for the marriage in 1997. Aaliyah continued her career and produced a second album with Timbaland instead of Kelly, ending their personal and professional relationships.

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