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R. Kelly Responds To A Year Of Accusations With Denials In 19-Minute-Long 'I Admit'

Jul 23, 2018

"Today is the day you've been waiting for," R. Kelly claims in an Instagram post Monday morning in which he directs his followers to listen to a new, 19-minute song titled "I Admit," in which the singer obliquely or directly addresses allegations levied against him over the past year.

Accusations of sexual misconduct have trailed the 51-year-old singer for nearly 20 years, perhaps most prominently in a child pornography court case in Chicago. The Grammy-winning singer was acquitted in 2008, but his reputation has remained clouded.

In the new song, uploaded to SoundCloud by A&R man Julius Darrington (who did not respond to questions about the new track) and which isn't available on Spotify, Kelly continues his practice of denying the many allegations against him except, this time, within a sprawling, stream-of-consciousness-style musical mode that recalls his 33-chapter Trapped In the Closet series.

Kelly rose to fame as an R&B singer in the '90s through hit singles such as "Bump N' Grind" and "I Believe I Can Fly." As his profile increased, so did attention on his private life. In 2000, an investigative report by Jim DeRogatis and Abdon Pallasch for the Chicago Sun-Times was one of the first public accounts accusing Kelly of cultivating underage girls for sexual relationships.

"Said I'm abusing these women, what the f***? That's some absurd s***," Kelly sings on "I Admit." Around the 11:35 mark, he goes on to question some of the terms used to describe his alleged relationships and "admits" to certain sexual proclivities:

What's the definition of a cult?

What's the definition of a sex slave?

Go to the dictionary, look it up

Let me know I'll be here waiting

Now I admit that I got some girls that love me to pull they hair

Now I admit that I got some girls that love me to pull they hair

Now I admit that they love me to talk dirty when I pull they hair

Some like me to spank 'em

Some like to get branded

In the same verse, Kelly also references DeRogatis, saying "you been trying to destroy me for 25 whole years."

Last year, BuzzFeed published an investigation by DeRogatis in which the reporter spoke to the parents of young women who accused Kelly of operating a "cult." Three former members of Kelly's "inner circle" claimed the singer controlled "every aspect" of the lives of six women living with him at the time.

A later BuzzFeed article by DeRogatis quoted Jerhonda Pace, who claimed to have begun a sexual relationship with Kelly while she was still a minor, and who furnished DeRogatis with documentation of a nondisclosure agreement she reached with the singer.

DeRogatis' articles came months before the #MeToo movement arose from revelations of film producer Harvey Weinstein's decades of alleged sexual misconduct.

Cancel my shows, that s*** ain't right

-- R. Kelly, "I Admit"

In the wake of DeRogatis' reporting, several of Kelly's concerts were canceled without explanation. Officials in Fulton County, Ga., requested cancelation of a show at a county-owned venue. The concert went on as scheduled last August, amid protests.

Turn the world against me, but only God can mute me

-- R. Kelly, "I Admit"

Another indirect result of DeRogatis' reporting was the formation of #MuteRKelly, a campaign against the singer launched by Kenyette Barnes and Oronike Odeleye that later drew a co-sign from women of color within the broader Time's Up campaign.

In a lawsuit filed against Kelly in New York in May, Faith A. Rodgers accuses him of sexual battery, false imprisonment and failure to disclose a sexually transmitted disease. She also revealed that she had anonymously delivered evidence against him to Dallas Police in April.

A deeply reported Washington Post piece by Geoff Edgers published in May examined Kelly's music industry relationships, finding that "disregard for the singer's alleged behavior played out on many levels, from the billionaire record executive who first signed the dynamic young vocalist in the early 1990s to the low-paid assistants who arranged flights, food and bathroom breaks for his traveling entourage of young women." The piece also spoke to two women, Tracy Sampson and Patrice Jones, who both said that they first met Kelly while minors and had sexual relationships with him.

Spotify, took me off they playlist

-- R. Kelly, "I Admit"

Shortly after Edgers' piece was published, Spotify announced a controversial (and since deprecated) editorial policy around "hateful conduct" by artists, through which R. Kelly was the first to be affected.

"I Admit" does, however, contain at least one notable inaccuracy:

See my work has nothing to do with my private life

If it didn't before, it certainly does now.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The rapper R. Kelly released a song today called "I Admit." It's 19 minutes long, and it addresses more than two decades' worth of allegations of abuse and sexual misconduct against the 51-year-old singer. NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas has been reporting on the story and joins us now. Hi there.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: This is the first conversation I've ever had about a song that we are not playing. Explain why.

TSIOULCAS: Well, Ari, this is something I've grappled with and we've grappled with in the past when it comes to musicians who have been accused of very serious allegations like this of sexual misconduct. And in this particular case, it's a 19-minute song, and a little, short snippet wouldn't give a lot of information or context about what he is trying to say here. But also there is an issue about whether playing a song publicizes it in some way or seems to promote its message. So we, like other media outlets, have chosen not to play it on air.

SHAPIRO: So this song, as we said, is almost 20 minutes long. It's called "I Admit." What does he admit to?

TSIOULCAS: Well, he runs through a lot of things, though he never quite says what the it is. And what he mostly says - and it's a very sprawling, widely meandering 19 minutes - is mostly a list of personal challenges. He talks about having been sexually abused as a child. He talks about being broke now and only touring because he has to make the money. He talks about not being literate enough to read a teleprompter. He says that he hasn't seen his own children in years. And he also says, quote, "I trust people too much," and, quote, "I just need a hug."

He sort of references various allegations, especially the allegations that he has been involved in sexual relationships with underage women and girls. And he says he gets with, quote, "all the ladies," both young and older, but he says he's not a pedophile. And he makes a point of saying that in every case, women have chased him, and he hasn't chased them. And he lashes out. He calls all of this - and this is now two decades' worth of allegations - a huge conspiracy. He says a, quote, "big-[expletive] conspiracy" and a setup. And he refers to the accusations as, quote, "opinions."

SHAPIRO: Even though the song is called "I Admit," it sounds more like "I Accuse." He is going after so many people in this track. What's he doing?

TSIOULCAS: Yeah, he's very specifically going after a number of organizations and individuals. For example, there's an online campaign called #MuteRKelly, which is meant to force major entertainment companies to cut off their relationships with R. Kelly. And here he says, only God can mute me. And he talks about Spotify, which took his music off its featured playlists. He refers to John Legend, who has supported the #MuteRKelly campaign. But he really reserved some special criticism for a Chicago journalist named Jim DeRogatis, whose role has really evolved from reporting on R. Kelly to being an active advocate for his alleged victims.

SHAPIRO: How are people responding to this song? R. Kelly hasn't released music for a while. And it's difficult to treat this as just music because it is so loaded.

TSIOULCAS: Yeah. And interestingly enough, this only dropped on SoundCloud. It appears on the account of a very little-known record label owner and artist manager. And it is not on services like Spotify or Apple Music. And there's a lot of media today that haven't linked the song in the - their reporting I think for reasons similar to ours. And there are also quite a few people on social media - celebrities, music fans and musicians alike - who are responding very negatively to him and saying that they're surprised to see new music considering everything else that's going on, that that was the last thing that they would expect to see.

SHAPIRO: So if he was hoping to do any kind of image rehab through this track, it doesn't sound like it's working.

TSIOULCAS: I think it's going to backfire, yeah.

SHAPIRO: That's Anastasia Tsioulcas of NPR Music. Thanks so much, Anastasia.

TSIOULCAS: Thanks for having me, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.