R. Kelly is, without question, one of the R&B world’s most storied performers, but past allegations of sexual abuse—specifically the ones surrounding a sex tape he was rumored to be in with a 14-year-old girl before being acquitted in 2008—have forced fans and casual spectators alike to, at least intermittently, take a serious look at his offstage behavior. Nine years later, people will take a long look at R. Kelly’s personal life once again.
In a lengthy news story by Jim DeRogatis, who’s been covering the R. Kelly beat since the Aaliyah scandal, BuzzFeed News claims parents and former associates of Kelly, who was recently sued for having an affair with a cop’s wife, tell them the 50-year-old superstar is running an abusive “cult” of young women in his Atlanta and Chicago properties. With Kelly, the women are apparently not allowed to use their cellphones or the bathroom without the singer’s permission, and they’re rarely allowed to contact their family.
One family let their daughter, an aspiring singer who was 19 at the time, travel with R. Kelly in the hopes that it would advance her music career. Although they’d heard about past accusations against the singer, they thought they would be able to protect their daughter from harm.
“In the back of our minds, we were thinking [my daughter] could be around him if I was with her,” the young woman’s mother said before referencing Kelly’s situation with the late Aaliyah, whom he famously was alleged to have married when she was just a 15-year-old. “It didn’t really hit home. Even with the Aaliyah situation, now that I think about it, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number’ … but you don’t think about that. You grew up with the song, and you like the song.”
It’s been two years since the parents of the woman met R. Kelly, and they’ve only seen her a few times since she initially left them. In order to reconnect with her daughter and learn more about the parameters of her relationship with Kelly, the mother has closed down her business and conducted her own investigation, sharing the information with FBI in both Illinois and Georgia.
The problem for the woman’s parents is that she’s technically not a missing person. She still lives with Kelly and tells her parents she’s doing fine. Her report is completely at odds with what her parents are claiming, though.
The mother and father say their daughter is “being held against her will” in a “cult,” and they haven’t seen her since Dec. 1, 2016. When they saw her, they noticed something about her behavior had changed drastically.
“It was as if she was brainwashed. [She] looked like a prisoner — it was horrible,” the mother said. “I hugged her and hugged her. But she just kept saying she’s in love and [Kelly] is the one who cares for her. I don’t know what to do. I hope that if I get her back, I can get her treatment for victims of cults. They can reprogram her. But I wish I could have stopped it from happening.”
Cheryl Mack, Kitti Jones, and Asante McGee, who all lived in Kelly’s Duluth, Ga. or Chicago home last summer, corroborate the claims of the parents. According to the women, six others spend time living in Kelly’s Duluth and Chicago properties, where a den mother teaches them the proper ways to sexually satisfy Kelly and they’re called the singer’s “babies” and told they must call him “daddy.”
When they disobey his commands, things can get violent. According to Jones, Kelly once held her up against a wall outside of a Subway and slapped her after he determined she’d been too friendly with the cashier.
According to Mack, who worked as Kelly’s personal assistant while maintaining a sexual relationship with the singer, Kelly forces all of the women living in his properties to wear jogging suits so their figure isn’t exposed. In addition to that, they must stand and face the wall when people visit him because he doesn’t want other people to get the pleasure of looking at their face.
For her part, McGee claims she never saw Kelly hit anyone, but did claim the singer had manipulated her emotionally and sexually. She says there’s a big difference between Kelly’s public persona—that of R. Kelly—and Robert Kelly, his birth name and the identity he assumes behind closed doors.
“R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet,” McGee said. “But Robert is the devil.” All of the women allegedly involved with Kelly are of consenting age.
Of course, this is just the latest chapter of a lengthy history of sexual assault allegations about Kelly. Because a bunch of allegations against him predated the true advent of the internet age, a good bit of it is lost to millennial audiences. He’s been getting accused of sexual assault and other subsets of sexual misconduct for years.
Featured Image Credit: Telegraph