By Johan Abdu
After weeks of deliberation, pop and R&B singer-songwriter Robert Sylvester Kelly, better known as R. Kelly, was found guilty on nine counts, including sexual exploitation, bribery, racketeering, sex trafficking, and kidnapping. He will remain in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York until his future sentencing on May 4, 2022.
“Everything I knew about the case was always being reported online…and I would just see that new victims come up and I just found it incredible that someone in such a big spotlight was getting away with all of this,” Stephanie Rosero told The Vanguard.
Rosero, a Journalism and Media Studies major, was always curious about the case. It wasn’t until she found herself in the courtroom to report and dig deeper into the story where she realized the extent of his crimes.
“I was extremely relieved… I felt disgusted hearing what him and his team had done to support and continue his wrongdoings,” she said.
Throughout his career, Kelly had multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, including child pornography. Kelly rose to prominence in the early ‘90s as a gifted but troubled teen. Years of chart-topping singles and success followed until 1996’s “I Believe I Can Fly” became a monster hit, in which he received three Grammy Awards in 1998.
Although many BC students knew of Kelly and his music ever since they were younger, some never considered themselves “fans” of the Chicago native. “I mean, I sang ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ at my graduation in kindergarten and elementary school but other than that, not really,” said BC senior Melina Valle.
For Valle, Kelly’s indictments have also brought up the question of separating the artist from the art after multiple women came forward to testify against him.
“I can’t listen to his music because I know he did these horrific things to these women and some people I know don’t feel that way and say that they don’t support the artist but yet [they would] be supporting his music, which gave him power,” said Valle.
For Iliana Calderon, a BC junior, the conversation about separating art from its creator is “a very black and white topic.”
After the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” was streamed on Netflix, many viewers like Calderon were reminded of the singer-songwriter’s reputation for sexual misconduct with young girls and women.
As the accumulation of outcry against Kelly took off following the documentary’s release, the attention only made things worse for Kelly, but didn’t necessarily speed up the process of his ongoing case, which did not surprise Valle and Calderon.
The entertainment industry, nonetheless, has recently seen multiple artists like Kelly punished for similar crimes while many still go unpunished.
“To me, it means that the music industry needs to have a better judgment [or] insight in the artist they take in. Not necessarily a background [check], but more so, call out ‘gross shit’ when it’s put out on the news,” said Calderon.
As Kelly awaits his incarceration in 2022, Valle and Calderon say his music should not hide what he has done over his long career. They think that many like him should be held responsible following this case.
“We need to set this as an example, so this doesn’t keep happening, and these powerful people aren’t taking advantage of others like this,” said Valle.