It was 1994 and I was way too young to listen to, let alone have a copy of R.Kelly’s 12 Play album. I had become enamored with Honey Love and Slow Dance from his one and only album with Public Announcement “Born into the 90s”. As time progressed, I morphed into one of his BIGGEST fans. I mean lose your voice from screaming at his concerts type of fan. It was the type of love that I had that always included in my top five of celebrities who could “get it”. You couldn't have said anything about him. I found him attractive, mostly because of his perceived confidence. He was right under Denzel and Sean Connery. Yes, I know… let’s just leave that alone for now and I will fill you in later, maybe.
Anyway, when the rumors began about R. Kelly it was hard for me to accept it as truth. I mean I was fully aware of his beyond freaky nature. From Sex Me, 12 Play, Bump n’ Grind, I Like the Crouch on You to Bangin’ the Headboard, Go Low, Pregnant were just a few songs that I absolutely knew was from the mind of someone who was into some extraordinary “stuff”. But this same man wrote songs like Happy People, Step in the Name of Love, I Believe I Can Fly, The Storm is Over Now, The World’s Greatest, and Whitney’s I Run to You. For so many it just further cemented that he was a musical genius because this spectrum of music was wide and deep. The number of people who has penned songs for, well we don't have time to list them all and it covers multiple genres. In my mind I already had my wedding songs, because the whole Chocolate Factory album summed up how I wanted to feel about the love I wanted someone to show me. I just knew I would be playing “Forever” as I walked down the aisle.
I bring all of this up because as we heard the rumors become more frequent and more salacious, we also heard so often that we can separate the man from the music, if we wanted to. But isn’t the man a part of the music? But this is why it has been tricky for so many. For 30 years, we loved what R. Kelly was doing and ignoring the demons that surrounded Robert. Those who say they can’t believe it, can’t believe that R.Kelly would do those things. But what about Robert? Do you believe that Robert could and did? I completely and totally believe that he was abused. I believe that he needs help and rehabilitation. I believe that someone hurt him when he was unable to help himself. HOW THE EVER.... at some point you MUST whole heartedly become responsible for helping yourself. I began to slowly accept that he did what he is accused of because if you're hurt and refuse help, well, you can only give what is in you. And if you are broken, hurt, abused, forgotten about, treated badly, etc. that is exactly what you will do to others. Robert, through R. Kelly had made enough money to get help. He chose not to, for what ever reason. That tells me he accepted his transition into a monster. And that means we should respond based upon those facts. Look, I have not a Heaven on Hell to send him to. But that does not negate the fact that he chose his fate and must now accept the consequences.
In a lot of work that I do around advocacy for mental health, I share that in my opinion, there are two main instances for episodes. Life happens and we do nothing about and there is a medical or physiological pre-disposition to an illness. Sometimes the illness lies dormant until life happens. I can't help but think about Robert's mental health. From his antics it appears that he isn't in good mental health. I am not a medical professional, but like the old folks say , 'some stuff you just know". EVEN if there is a diagnosis to be given to him, it still doesn't negate his responsibility for his actions. The best example I can give is Alcoholics Anonymous. While a lot of the hurt may have been caused while under the influence, you still must be accountable for those actions. Having an illness or not, is no excuse. Having been abused is no excuse. You are responsible for your happiness, joy, peace, and good health. Its sad and disappointing that with all of the resources Robert has, or had, that he chose not to be responsible. Unfortunately, the pedestal that we place celebrities on feeds their erroneous assumption that they are invincible.
This is the issue with brands and images. We tend to believe what people have spent years and money cultivating. Slowly erasing from our minds who they are when the mask comes off. My mind still has a hard time reconciling that this man has for DECADES committed these heinous acts. I find myself still feeling bad at times. But then I ask myself, am I feeling bad for R. Kelly or for Robert? Because while the songs sung can’t hurt, the man who was able to take a beautiful musical mind and write songs that some may find themselves still humming, he used that same mind to rationalize immoral, illegal, and disgusting behavior that can and has hurt many.
I was torn for a while. But then I realized that R.Kelly isn’t real. Robert is. And I can no longer focus on what R.Kelly chooses to do. I am paying attention to how we respond to Robert. Because maybe had we spent more time focusing on Robert, maybe, just maybe R.Kelly wouldn’t feel so invincible.