June 13, 2024

Beyond R. Kelly


What hasn’t already been said about R. Kelly this week…and in mid 2018 amid new allegations of sexual abuse…or in 2002 upon the release of the infamous “sex tape”… and back in 1994 following his marriage to 15-year old protege Aaliyah? Yet, here we are in 2019, shocked that a globally recognized pedophile with an extensive history of exploiting, abusing, and manipulating underage girls is still the same free-wheeling pervert he’s been allowed to be for the past 25 years.


While Kelly’s lengthy trail of abuse is well documented, what hadn’t been given equal consideration is how his entourage enabled his sickness. Lifetime’s docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly”, a ratings bonanza for the network, revived the enduring sexual allegations but also highlighted some of the singer’s known accomplices and witnesses to his troubling behavior. But what it didn’t do, and probably couldn’t, is shine light on the industry that fostered such depravity. R. Kelly and his associates are simply cogs in the wheel. The entertainment business as a whole is to blame.


It starts at the top where the climate is often ripe for decadence. Then somebody with a little authority green lights the dysfunction, or turns a blind eye to it in exchange for fame and fortune. CEOs, executives, managers, publicists, agents, lawyers, producers, radio personalities, DJ’s, studio engineers, right down to the personal barber all have a hand in the rotten cookie jar. The hangers-on and sycophants keep quiet as long as they can lap up the few remaining crumbs. And while some blame the parents or even the young and impressionable victims for their own abuse, the real criminals generally get away with murder. Such is the entertainment industry. But we accept it because it provides us temporary escape from our own problems.  


Year after year, we’ve proven time and time again that sexual abuse and violence, alleged or confirmed, is perfectly fine with us. Whether it’s the Woody Allens and Bryan Singers of the film world or the Takashi 6ix9ines and NBA Youngboys of the rap game who have been respectively accused of molestation, sexual mistreatment, and even incest, we still support them all the way to the top of the Billboard charts and Box Office. A little case of rape doesn’t stop the show.


But I’m just preaching to the choir. After the R. Kelly hype has died down and Lifetime pumps out a few other juicy docu-series exposing your favorite celebrities’ sins and transgressions, we’ll be back at square one, dancing and singing along to our favorite sexual abuser’s chart topping hits. We’ll keep watching movies produced, directed and starring known evildoers. We’re just not strong enough to topple the top dogs, decision makers and gatekeepers who let the whole wretched thing happen in the first place. We’ll be outraged until something or someone else grabs our fleeting attention. Because at the end of the day, the glitz and glamour of it all has us just as entranced as those monsters who aided an award-winning pedophile for a taste of the good life.


Sebastien Elkouby is a writer, educator and Hip Hop Culture historian. Find him at SebIsHipHop.com or on Twitter at @SebIsHipHop.

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