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Commentary | Jeneé Osterheldt

Time may finally be up for R. Kelly

R. Kelly was dropped by his record label, RCA Records.
R. Kelly was dropped by his record label, RCA Records.Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP/File 2013/Invision/AP

After decades of allegations of abuse and rape, R. Kelly is finally facing the music.

The R&B singer reportedly no longer has a record label. Sony and R. Kelly parted ways, sources told Billboard on Friday.

Since “Surviving R. Kelly,” a six-part series, began airing on Lifetime Jan. 3, it became harder to look away from the dozens of black women and girls allegedly abused and raped by R. Kelly.

That night, The National Sexual Assault Hotline received 27 percent more calls, a spokesperson from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, told The Daily Beast.


On Jan. 11, women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, flew a banner above Sony’s Culver City, Calif., offices that read “RCA/Sony: Drop Sexual Predator R. Kelly.”

Prosecutors in Chicago and Atlanta have called for alleged victims and witnesses to come forward. Investigations are underway.

Since it aired, Lady Gaga and Celine Dion removed collaborations with Kelly from streaming services. On Wednesday, “Rally to Protect Black Girls,” a joint effort between Color of Change, Girls for Gender Equity, the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, Black Women’s Blueprint, A Long Walk Home, CREDO Mobile, and UltraViolet, protested outside of Sony’s New York offices.

He reportedly had two albums left on his contract, but a song he dropped on New Year’s Day barely has 200,000 plays. For a man who has sold more than 100 million records, that’s a fail. It’s time people know they can’t build brands on the suffering of black girls.

Earlier this year, the #MuteRKelly movement started to get concerts canceled, radio stations to stop playing his songs, and streaming services to remove him from curated playlists.

It’s taken too long. For 20 years, we’ve known he married Aaliyah when she was just 15 years old and he was 27. There’s a marriage certificate.


When she was 14, he wrote her hit song, “Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number,” where she sings: Age ain’t nothing but a number, throwing down ain’t nothing but a thing.

How can one separate the man from the music when he’s so clearly telling you what he’s about?

To Kelly, age has always been a number. And a girl’s body was his to exploit. And this country, so deeply rooted in rape culture, turns a blind eye to violence against women — and turns both of them when we’re talking women of color.

More than 40 percent of black women and American Indian and Alaska Native women are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking, according to a study on intimate partner violence by the CDC.

Victims are steadily coming forward. Tracy Sampson, a former intern of Kelly’s, will detail her alleged abuse on “Dateline NBC” Friday night. She says she had a relationship with him when she was 16.

Girls have grown into women waiting to be heard, to get justice. Time’s up for the Pied Piper.

Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.