Hip Hop News
R. Kelly receives bad news when reporter who exposed his underage sextape resurfaces with more info
Few people will argue that R. Kelly made a lot of mistakes over the years and he will be the first to own up to his past. There are a lot of misdeeds in R. Kelly’s past, including a marriage to the underage Aaliyah. But, R. Kelly has grown past these infractions to become an overall better man.
Last week, R. Kelly released his Black Panties album and he appeared to have the number one spot locked in. Demons from his past beef with Jay-Z came back to haunt him when Beyonce’s surprise album swept him away. Going into the weekend, things got far worse for R. Kelly.
The reporter who brought the sextape story from the early 2000s back to life returned with more information. Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times reported the original story and he came back this weekend, giving R. Kelly much bigger problems than album sales. He did an interview over the weekend revealing the additional information about the R. Kelly sextapes.
Read the entire interview below:
How did you first get a hold of the now infamous sex tape with R. Kelly and an underage girl?
Being a beat reporter, music critic at a Chicago daily, the Sun-Times, R. Kelly was a huge story for me, this guy who rose from not graduating from Kenwood Academy, singing at backyard barbecues and on the El, to suddenly selling millions of records. I interviewed him a number of times. Then TP2.com came out. I’d written a review that said the jarring thing about Kelly is that one moment he wants to be riding you and then next minute he’s on his knees, crying and praying to his dead mother in Heaven for forgiveness for his unnamed sins. It’s a little weird at times. It’s just an observation.
The next day at the Sun-Times, we got this anonymous fax — we didn’t know where it came from. It said: R. Kelly’s been under investigation for two years by the sex-crimes unit of the Chicago police. And I threw it on the corner of my desk. I thought, “player-hater.” Now, from the beginning, there were rumors that Kelly likes them young. And there’d been this Aaliyah thing – Vibe printed, without much commentary and no reporting, the marriage certificate. Kelly or someone had falsified her age as 18. There was that. So all this is floating in the air. This fax arrives and I think, “Oh, this is somebody playing with this.” But there was something that nagged at me as a reporter. There were specific names, specific dates, and those great, long Polish cop names. And you’re not going to make that crap up. So I went to the city desk and I asked, “What do we do with this?” They said, Abdon Pallasch is the courts reporter, why don’t you two look into it and see if there’s anything there? And it turns out there had been lawsuits that had been filed that had never been reported.
When you cover the courts in Chicago or any city, you go twice a day and you go through the bin of cases that have been filed and every once in a while Michael Jordan’s been sued or someone went bankrupt and it’s this sexy story and you pull it out. These suits had been filed at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Ain’t no reporter working at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and they flew under the radar. So we had these lawsuits that were explosive and we didn’t understand why nobody had reported them.
DeRigatis goes on to say that the details of the lawsuits were “stomach churning” and that R. Kelly recruited young, teenage girls for orgies while one of his alleged victims tried to commit suicide…
They were stomach-churning. The one young woman, who had been 14 or 15 when R. Kelly began a relationship with her, detailed in great length, in her affidavits, a sexual relationship that began at Kenwood Academy: He would go back in the early years of his success and go to Lina McLin’s gospel choir class. She’s a legend in Chicago, gospel royalty. He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio. She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. 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.
Her lawsuit was hundreds of pages long, and Kelly countersued. The countersuit was, like, 10 pages long: “None of this is true!” We began our reporting. We knocked on a lot of doors. The lawsuits, the two that we had found initially, had been settled. Kelly had paid the women and their families money and the settlements were sealed by the court. But of course, the initial lawsuits remain part of the public record.
On why R. Kelly never seemed to get prosecuted for any of his underage girl shenanigans…
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.
I had purposely not listened to his music since the initial charges came out and I saw these ninth- and 10th-grade girls interviewed on TV, talking about how he was in the parking lot of their school every day and everyone knew how come. That is what it took for me.
Part of our reporting was sitting with those girls, sitting with their families, seeing their scars on their wrists, hearing the emotion.
And there was a young woman who was pressured into an abortion?
That he paid for. There was a young woman that he picked up on the evening of her prom. The relationship lasted a year and a half or two years. Impregnated her, paid for her abortion, had his goons drive her. None of which she wanted. She sued him. 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. Mark Anthony Neal, the African-American scholar, makes this point : one white girl in Winnetka and the story would have been different.
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.
And they learned that after putting these suits forth and having them get nowhere? Do you think they didn’t get traction because of the representation they had, or Kelly’s power? Were certain elements in concert with that?
I think it was a lot of things, including the fact that Kelly was fully capable of intimidating people. These girls feared for their lives. They feared for the safety of their family. And these people talked to me not because I’m super reporter — we rang a lot of doorbells on the south and west sides, and people were eager to talk about this guy, because they wanted him to stop!
Going back a little bit to our original question. So, you get this tape dropped in the mail…
Well, the tape came a year after we ran the first story. We ran this story and the world shrugged. Associated Press picks it up: “Chicago Sun-Times has reported a pattern of sexual predation of young women by Robert Kelly,” and everybody says, “Ah, well, OK.” Then one day I get this call that says: Go to your mailbox. There’s this manila envelope with a videotape in it.
We had gotten one videotape already after the first story, and we gave it to the police. When I say “we,” I mean a roomful of editors sitting around asking: What is the right thing to do here? This would seem to be evidence of a felony, we should give it to police. There was one tape, but the police could not determine the girl’s age. The forensic experts they had looking at it said judging by the soles of her feet, they could tell she was 13 or 14 at the time this tape was made, but we can’t identify who the woman is. Videotape number one.
There were tapes on the street. And I had heard of another video tape with a girl who was part of an ongoing relationship. This is the girl who was in the tape that was in the lawsuit.
And some 40-odd people testified that it was her?
Yeah. Coaches, best friend’s parents, pastor, half the family, grandmother, aunt — but the mother and father never testified, the girl never testified. When we wrote our story about the tape, the girl and mother and father took a six-month vacation to the south of France. We’d been to the house several times. We’d rung the doorbell. This was an aluminum-siding, lower-middle-class house on the South Side, with a station wagon which is 13 years old — you know what I mean? And now they’re in the south of France. And one time the dad got a credit as a bass player on an R. Kelly album. He didn’t play bass.
The situations are incredibly complicated, and sometimes there is an element of: We’re gonna exploit this situation for our favor. That doesn’t mean that it’s legal or it’s right or that girl wasn’t harmed. It tore that family apart.
How many people do you think you’ve interviewed? How many people came forward?
I think in the end there were two dozen women with various level of details. Obviously the women who were part of the hundreds of pages of lawsuits — hell of a lot of details. There were girls who just told one simple story, and there were a lot of girls who told stories that lasted hours which still make me sick to my stomach. It never was one girl on one tape. Or one girl and Aaliyah.
The other thing, the thing that people seem to not know: She was fresh out of eighth grade in this tape.
Fourteen or fifteen. That puts a perspective on it. She’s not sophisticated enough to know what her kinks are.
What are the other factors that keep the public from completely shunning R. Kelly for his behavior?
Here’s the most sinister. This deeply troubles me: There’s a very — I don’t know what the percentage is — some percentage of fans are liking Kelly’s music because they know. And that’s really troublesome to me. There is some sort of — and this is tied up to complicated questions of racism and sexism — there is some sort of vicarious thrill to seeing this guy play this character in these songs and knowing that it’s not just a character!
Songs like “Sexasaurus” kind of makes it novel. The ironic, jokey Trapped in the Closet series airs on the Independent Film Channel and features Will Oldham — that has these other hallmarks of “art” that read to a white, hipster, indie-rock audience, then, because we are not taking certain things seriously, we can choose not to take the lives of these young black women seriously.
It puts it in the realm of camp or kitsch. If you have an emotional reaction to a work of art and you use all your skills as a critic to back it up with evidence and context. That’s all we can ask of anybody. We’re all viewing art differently. The joy is in the conversation. Pitchfork is the premier critical organ in the United States for smart discussion of music, books, and artists, but it doesn’t have this discussion. Reviews his records but doesn’t have the conversation about, “What does it say for us to like his music?”
I think, again, everybody has to individually answer. I can still listen to Led Zeppelin and take joy in Led Zeppelin or James Brown. I condemn the things they did. I’m not reminded constantly in the art, because the art is not about it. But if you’re listening to “I want to marry you, pussy,” and not realizing that he said that to Aaliyah, who was 14, and making an album he named Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number – I had Aaliyah’s mother cry on my shoulder and say her daughter’s life was ruined, Aaliyah’s life was never the same after that. That’s not an experience you’ve had. I’m not expecting you to feel the same way I do. But you can look at this body of evidence. You, meaning everybody who cares!
You told me about the night after your critical review of R. Kelly’s performance at Pitchfork ran, one of these women called you at 2 a.m.
This happens a lot. If you are a good reporter, you are accessible to people and you cannot turn a story off. And that sucks! The number of times since I began this R. Kelly story that I was called in the middle of the night, was talking to someone on Christmas Eve or on New Year’s Day or Thanksgiving…. Yeah, I got a call from one of the women after the Pitchfork festival review. “I know we haven’t spoken in a long time…,” and said thank you for still caring and thank you for writing this story, because nobody gives a shit.
It was a horrible day and a horrible couple of weeks when he was acquitted. The women I heard from who I’d interviewed, women I’d never interviewed who said, “I didn’t come forward, I never spoke to you before, I wish I had now that son of a bitch got off.” Jesus Christ. Rape-victim advocates — I don’t believe in God — they do God’s work. These young women who volunteer to be in the emergency room and sit with a woman throughout the horrible process, I don’t do that. I’m not saying I’m even in the same universe. But somebody calls you up and says, I want to talk about this or thank you about writing this, or, “I can’t sleep because I’m haunted, can you hear what I want to tell you?” We do that as a human being. I would like to forget about this story. I’m not saying I’m Super Reporter. I’m saying this was a huge story. Where was everybody else?
There is a disregard for your ongoing concern about this. “Let this go, Jim. Get over it, Jim. He was acquitted.” You have never dropped this, and your peers are pissed because it puts the rest of us over a barrel. I can speak to this, too. It’s often uncool to be the person who gives a shit.
“You’re jealous of R. Kelly, you’re trying to make your name off his career.”
Because you would love nothing more than to have to report and carry these stories of rape.
Rapes, plural. It is on record. Rapes in the dozen. So stop hedging your words and when you tell me what a brilliant ode to pussy Black Panties is, then realize that the next sentence should say: “This, from a man who has committed numerous rapes.” The guy was a monster! Just say it! We do have a justice system and he was acquitted. OK, fine. And these other women took the civil-lawsuit route. He was tried on very narrow grounds. He was tried on a 29-minute, 36-second videotape. He was tried on trading child pornography. He was not tried for rape. He was acquitted of making child pornography. He’s never been tried in court for rape, but look at the statistics. The numbers of rapes that happened, the numbers of rapes that were reported, the numbers of rapes that make it to court and then the conviction rate. I mean, it comes down to something minuscule. He’s never had his day in court as a rapist. It’s 15 years in the past now, but this record exists. You have to make a choice, as a listener, if music matters to you as more than mere entertainment. And you and I have spent our entire lives with that conviction. This is not just entertainment, this is our lifeblood. This matters. – Via VillageVoice