Lifetime’s three-night, six-part docu-series Surviving R. Kelly thrust the multiple allegations of sexual abuse against the singer back into the spotlight this week. The series’ final episode aired footage from an interview with Kelly’s fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper. In it, Chance apologized to the women Kelly allegedly victimized and said that he regretted working with the R&B star.
“Making a song with R. Kelly was a mistake,” he told writer Jamilah Lemieux in the clip. “I think for a long time I was only able to understand R. Kelly’s situation and presence in the world when it comes down to his trial and his accusations and his accusers as a victim. I don’t know if that’s because I’m from Chicago or ‘cause he made great music or ‘cause he is a black man.”
We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to black male oppression. But black women are exponentially [a] higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world. Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women. Usually, niggas that get in trouble for shit like this on their magnitude of celebrity, it’s light-skinned women or white women. That’s when it’s a big story. I’ve never really seen any pictures of R. Kelly’s accusers.
Kelly has been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct for more than 20 years. In 1995, VIBE Magazine published a marriage certificate between a then-27-year-old Kelly and his protege, the late performer Aaliyah. She was 15 at the time, though the marriage certificate listed her as being 18 years old. In 2008, the singer went to trial on charges of producing child pornography based on a widely-circulated video that appeared to feature him sexually abusing a teenage girl. Kelly was acquitted, and has settled out of court with at least four other alleged victims.
The #MeToo movement breathed new life into the longstanding accusations against Kelly, and coincided with new allegations that the singer was holding women against their will in an abusive sex cult. These new reports helped inspire the #MuteRKelly campaign, which successfully lobbied to cancel the singer’s shows and take his music off the airwaves.
“I can’t be right all the time,” said Chance. “I made a mistake and I’m happy that those women are getting voices now and I can grow to understand better what my positioning should be or should’ve been when that opportunity came.”