R. Kelly's image as a self-parodying R&B lothario largely overshadows a very disturbing truth about the Chicago singer: He's been accused of rape several times. Five years after he was acquitted of all charges in a child pornography trial, the numerous accusations leveled against R. Kelly are making headlines once again, thanks to Jim DeRogatis, the music journalist who turned the allegations into national news with a 2000 Chicago Sun-Times story that was written with courts reporter Abdon M. Pallasch.
In light of the release of R. Kelly's latest album, Black Panties, and news of his upcoming Christmas album, DeRogatis has granted a lengthy interview with the Village Voice in which he discusses the extensive reporting he's done on R. Kelly over the years.
"I think in the history of rock & roll, rock-music or pop-culture people misbehaving and behaving badly sexually with young women, rare is the amount of evidence compiled against anyone apart from R. Kelly," says DeRogatis, who, in 2002, received a video in the mail that allegedly depicted R. Kelly having sex with an underage girl. "Dozens of girls — not one, not two, dozens — with harrowing lawsuits. The videotapes — and not just one videotape, numerous videotapes. And not Tommy Lee/Pam Anderson, Kardashian fun video. You watch the video for which he was indicted and there is the disembodied look of the rape victim. He orders her to call him Daddy. He urinates in her mouth and instructs her at great length on how to position herself to receive his 'gift.' It's a rape that you're watching. So we're not talking about rock-star misbehavior, which men or women can do. We're talking about predatory behavior. Their lives were ruined."
DeRogatis recalls one lawsuit filed against Kelly, a case he describes as "stomach-churning." According to affidavits from one of Kelly's alleged victims, the performer began his sexual relationship with her when she was "14 or 15," as DeRogatis remembers. "It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself," DeRogatis says. "Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together. A level of specificity that was pretty disgusting."
R. Kelly responded to the Voice story in a December 16 interview with Atlanta radio station V-103. As Radio.com points out, Kelly brushed off questions about the piece, saying, "Well, I feel like I got the football man, and I'm running towards the touchdown and if I stop and look back or mess around, I'll get tackled." The 46-year-old added that he appreciates the support he's received from fans over the years, and said that he must remain strong in the face of negative press. "When you get on top of anything, it's very windy," he said. "It's about holding your balance once you get up there… Spiritually, I'm a climber."
But DeRogatis argues that the allegations against R. Kelly have been more or less overlooked by the music press. Speaking to the Voice about the lack of in-depth reporting on Kelly's case, DeRogatis says, "People are squeamish. I think a lot of people don't know how to do it, don't care to do it, and it's way too much work. It's just kind of disgusting to have to write about this and bum everyone out, when you just want to review a record."
Later, he says, "The saddest fact I've learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: They are 'bitches, hos, and gold diggers,' plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of... No, it was young black girls and all of them settled. They settled because they felt they could get no justice whatsoever. They didn't have a chance."
Read the interview in full at the Village Voice, along with all of the court filings and Chicago Sun-Times articles on R. Kelly's alleged sex crimes. DeRogatis has also compiled an unsettling timeline exploring Kellz's career and legal troubles. Head here to listen to audio from Kelly's most recent interview with V-103.