I was sitting in my bed room reading word up magazine and facing my radio. The year was 1992 and I was ten years old. R&B and Hip Hop was my life. It was a way of living. Growing up in a small southern town with one grocery store, and a McDonalds about an hour away there wasn’t really much to do, but listen to music. I was discovering another one of my loves. I had discovered writing a few years earlier, but music and the intriguing lives of celebrities was filling my heart with something many young girls shouldn’t feel until they are grown.
I was reading some article and then I heard his voice. It was an upbeat tempo at first and then this voice came through telling me to “Slow Dance”. I turned my radio up. It was as if R. Kelly was talking directly to me. The melody of that song was enchanting. Now please stop judging me. Yes, I was too young to be listening to music with such explicit lyrics, and yes my mother allowed me to listen to certain R&B Music. I knew my limits of what to play around mom, but this song was getting radio play so a lot of grownups in the black communities thought this was harmless, “Hey it’s just a song, right?” It was R. Kelly telling the D.J to please slow the party down that won me over.
The next year wasn’t even better for my emerging hormones and my heart. I can remember my cousin running over to my house out of breath screaming “Have you heard 12 Play? I have R. Kelly’s 12 play on tape.” How did I miss the debut of 12 play? I must had been busy or on some type of punishment, but I had miss it. Well, it didn’t take long for me to catch up on my feelings. Me and my cousin went to my room. She had a recorded cassette in her had. Someone at school had given her a copy. I sat down on that floor and we played the song on low volume. The words were hypnotizing. Now I’m eleven and don’t know anything about sex, but I became curious. I sat there and recorded me a tape. For the next few months and years you could catch me humming and singing versions of R. Kelly’s songs. I had a tablet filled with all the lyrics of the 12 play album. He was my idle and I was a number one fan. Do I blame R. Kelly for me losing my virginity at the age of fifteen to a loser? I can’t say that I do, but my mind was ready even if my body wasn’t.
For the next few years, I followed this man through the videos, radio, interviews, and news articles. Then emerged his prodigy Aaliyah. When I saw the video of that young girl, I instantly became a fan of Aaliyah. Aaliyah was beautiful. She had style and I wanted to be her. I started to wear the bandana, baggy pants and even wore some ugly boots. Aaliyah was the baby girl version of R. Kelly. It seems that her relationship with him on camera made me even more a fan of her. She was Innocent, but jazzy. Maybe it was her innocence that what made him begin an affair with her. Now see that’s the part that made the shit hit the ceiling “the scandal”. R. Kelly and Aaliyah had eloped in some foreign country. She was underage and they were in love. I didn’t know what to think of this Scandal. As you can imagine all my friends and people around me were talking about my favorite two people and I was speechless. I tried to make since of the whole situation. I would say things like “Age ain’t nothing but a number” isn’t it. This still didn’t kill my vibe with my favorite two people. Besides my grandmother was a teenager who married my grandfather when he was very old. I was confused. I sat back for a while and turned my attention to some other artist and hoped that things would work out for those two.
Well, Aaliyah did come back a few years later. She was no longer under R. Kelly’s Stewardship. Her album was actually pretty good. As for R. Kelly he remained in the industry making good music and things seem to be going well. There was the “Down Low” era, which blew my mind. Seeing the scandal with Ron Isley and R. Kelly was too much for the black community. R. Kelly is talented this is a fact. Things seemed smooth for a couple of years with his career and personal life. Sometimes as soon as everything is going smooth a storm is just brewing.
Around the time of the next Scandal with R. Kelly, I am now a young adult somewhere in college. This time it was really different. There were accusations of videos. There were jokes and rumors of him relieving himself on a young girl’s chest. Yess, this was sickening to hear. My favorite singer was all over the media for having sex with an underage girl or girls. I remain quiet in the daily gossip talks about him. I still played his music. I watched a scene where some people were burning and tearing up his cassettes. I thought to myself “what does his music have to do with anything? Is music that powerful”? Then I couldn’t help to remember all the emotions that were brought upon me when I first got a taste of “Honey Love”. His story was just like all media it died over time. Even though the gossip died, there remained a dark spot on the black community about the man R. Kelly. What was really trapped in the closet?
Years went on and Music of course will never die. The one thing that outlives us all is a melody, a tone and a voice. Now here we are in 2017 and guess who has popped back into the media with new allegations. There is a difference in the stories now. The girls are not under aged physically, but I can’t help but ask are they underage mentally.
There are stories of my once favorite singer saying how he manipulates women and takes advantage of the “Innocence”. Remember how I felt that Aaliyah looked so innocent to me. Is that what he likes their innocence of wanting to belong, wanting fame and celebrity life? Many child molesters become obsessed with the child’s innocence. So I begin to put on my psychology hat. I can’t help but wonder did someone take R. Kelly’s innocence in his early life? If what they are accusing R. Kelly of is true then what does that say about the black communities who played this man’s albums faithfully. What does that say about young black girls like me who romanticized his music? Are we all sick? Have we all become so out of touch with reality that we accept the unacceptable because of the voids it fills. What about the young girls who make a career at bunny ranches. Do we criticize Hugh Hefner and why hasn’t this become a scandal?
My feeling for R. Kelly have long been dead, but I still feel so sorry for him in my heart. I can’t help but wonder, are we all a victim of society’s manipulative ways to glamorize sex then say that it’s wrong if it doesn’t meet certain standards? Who are you when you listen to R. Kelly’s music? Who is the real Robert Kelly? I was just a fan of some music that kept my sanity as a young girl and now I’m a writer who needed a release.
Author Kim Elaine