In an industry that harbors, protects and profits from sexual predators, today seems surreal, but hopefully just a start. RCA Records and Sony have dropped R. Kelly from their roster, according to multiple reports (first by Billboard). He has been removed from their website and they will not release any more of his music.
R. Kelly has been dogged by accusations of sexually assaulting underage girls for decades, notably marrying Aaliyah when she was 15. He knew she was 15.
In 2002 he was charged with 21 counts of child pornography over videotape that showed him allegedly peeing on a 14-year-old girl. His attorneys delayed the case for years and eventually he was acquitted.
More substantial pressure has mounted in recent years, starting with a 2017 Buzzfeed article that alleged he had been keeping girls against their will in a home in an abusive “cult.” Other stories similar to that had emerged throughout the years.
Pressure has really hit a fever pitch in the past few weeks following the airing of the Lifetime docuseries on R Kelly, which features stories from women who R. Kelly allegedly abused. Their stories made it impossible to ignore the pain that he has caused and with sustained protests outside of the label building, it felt like something had to give. Today, that happened, though the label is not making any public statements.
Terms of an exit deal have not been disclosed. His music is still on streaming services, so someone is still cashing in one his music. It isn’t clear what he still owed RCA under his current deal.
"It is long past time that Sony Music and RCA Records sever ties with R. Kelly. This has been a long and harrowing battle for justice for the all the Black girls who were disbelieved and made vulnerable to R. Kelly," says Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, a leading national women’s group and organizer of the #MuteRKelly in a statement.
"Sony's decision to drop Kelly is all thanks to the survivors who spoke out, and the activists who've been fighting for accountability for Kelly for years, including the leaders behind the #MuteRKelly movement, Color of Change, Girls for Gender Equity and so many more."