Has R. Kelly Really Paid “the Pied Piper” with His Conviction?


R. Kelly (center) was recently found guilty of sex trafficking and racketeering after sexually abused minors speak out. (courtesy of Twitter)

Former icon R. Kelly built an empire in the R&B genre since he first burst onto the scene in 1993, but it took nearly 30 years for the “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number” songwriter to see it fall apart. 

The undoing of Kelly’s empire began two years ago during his incriminating interview with Gayle King, when the singer became unhinged at allegations he was leading a sex cult of underraged girls. Contributing to Kelly’s downfall was the Netflix documentary, “Surviving R., Kelly,” which chronicled the lives and experiences of multiple women who detailed the extensive sexual abuse they suffered from the singer. Yet despite the long timeline of sexual abuse allegations dating back to 1994 with Kelly’s illegal marriage to 15-year-old pop sensation Aaliyah it took until 2021 for Kelly to be found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking. 

Nathan Edmond, the minister who officiated Kelly’s wedding with Aaliyah, is one of the men who had the chance to stop Kelly. His testimony may have played an instrumental role in having Kelly face conviction for his actions, but if Edmond had denounced Kelly’s behavior sooner, he may have prevented many young women from Kelly’s abuse. Additionally, although three men were charged for threatening and intimidating Kelly’s accusers, their prosecution has reached a standstill with Kelly facing more consequences.

Many have wondered why the fall of the singer did not come sooner, considering Kelly appeared on live television with his underaged love interest, Aaliyah. This could be because of the lack of social awareness towards issues like sexual abuse and harassment in an  industry that was, at the time, male dominated. However, these issues are now gaining more attention due to the resurgence of  the #MeToo movement.. However, even with the rise in the #MeToo movement, Kelly’s actions went unchecked for years, which has led to criticism that the movement does not do enough for Black female victims. This assessment is supported by it taking two years to convict Kelly after the #MuteRKelly movement was founded in 2019. 

Since Kelly’s conviction his music is still flying high with album sales up 500 percent. Although streaming sites like YouTube have scrubbed Kelly’s official accounts, his music is still accessible. Even during his trial, Kelly commanded a strong influence over his fans who vocalized their unwavering support of the singer. By this measure, Kelly’s conviction seems to have been reduced to “a step in the right direction” rather than justice being served. Kelly’s musical career reached its end, but with streams and sales still reaching a high point, his career is still somehow so far from being muted. 

Kelly’s conviction definitely could have come sooner , and it is discouraging to see Kelly’s legacy still commanding an underserved amount of respect. However it is encouraging to see the self-proclaimed “Pied Piper of R&B” pay the price for the years of abuse he’s inflicted upon underaged, young Black girls.