Last week when the lineup for the upcoming Soulquarius Festival was announced, I was just as hyped as anyone on social media even though I knew I most likely won’t be able to attend.
The prospect of diverse acts like Erykah Badu, The Internet, Too $hort, Suga Free and The Pharcyde sharing the same space for one night is enough to send most festivalgoers into a state of musical bliss, but in my excitement, I failed to fully digest the first name on that lineup, R. Kelly.
I don’t think anyone can deny the impact of R. Kelly’s iconic musical career, so in that regard it makes sense to have him headlining a show billed as an “R&B Jam,” but it’s his life outside the studio that has people furiously signing a petition to have him removed from the lineup, and has me wondering how the hell this guy is still able to get booked for shows.
Throughout the last 10 years or so, R. Kelly has accumulated an incredibly lengthy list of accusations of sexual assault and rape (both statutory and otherwise), and yet this man is still heralded by the music industry as someone worthy of receiving our hard-earned money in exchange for his art.
Obviously, this is far from a one-time occurrence in the music industry. After his recent release from prison, many found it ethically questionable to continue to support Kodak Black following charges of sexual assault earlier this year, and The Game was recently ordered to pay 7 million to the victim of his own alleged sexual assault.
I understand that all of these cases are different, and I also understand that in this day and age there are people who look to take advantage of the celebrity lifestyle by falsely alleging crimes, but every allegation of a sexual crime must be taken seriously, and in the case of R. Kelly, there have been far too many allegations and far too much evidence for us to continue to willingly separate the man from his art.
The music industry has long operated on an ethical fringe, consistently covering up or blatantly ignoring the misdeeds of popular artists for the sake of continuing to milk their art for profit, and it’s a practice that must stop.
How must it feel as the victim of a sex crime to watch your aggressor continue to make more money in one evening than you will in a year? To continue to be praised as a genius and pioneer for their musical achievements and receive little to no punishment for the lives they irreparably harmed?
While much of the blame for these unfortunate circumstances can be laid on the industry itself, we as consumers of art must hold ourselves to a much higher standard for who is allowed to benefit from our monetary and social support.
Do R. Kelly, Chris Brown and the like make great music? Of course. But if the profits and lifestyle obtained from that art are fostering abhorrent actions, we owe it to the victims of their crimes to do everything we can to ensure that they aren’t able to hide behind the acclaim of their art.
As fans, we’re obviously not privy to everything that happens behind closed doors in the life of a celebrity. There are predatory circumstances abound for a rising star, and I’m sure most fans would be appalled at some of the situations artists have had to endure, but as I mentioned before, every claim by a victim must be taken seriously.
When our President-elect has been accused multiple times of sexual assault and R. Kelly is still getting booked for large festivals, we absolutely must set a better example for our daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers who have become victims of powerful people imposing their will on those they find to be easy prey.
I’ll personally be signing this petition, and I hope in the future we can apply a little more scrutiny to who is allowed to be placed on a pedestal.