R Kelly is a singer, songwriter, rapper and record producer who has remixed and waxed many chart-topping singles with over 40 million albums sold. He earned and still retains the title of the King of R&B in the American music industry. His music career kicked off formally in the year 1989 and for more than 2 decades and counting, Kelly’s songs remain evergreen with his distinctive voice, unique way of rapping as well as their lyrics.
Outside of his music career, a couple of scandals and allegations marred his personality and to some extent his much-loved songs. But like every other person who finds himself in a similar situation, the iconic singer is keeping a positive outlook to life. Learn more about him below in addition to the accusations and controversies trailing the once infallible (perhaps still the) King of R&B.
R Kelly’s Bio
Robert Sylvester Kelly who we mostly refer to as R Kelly began his earthly existence after he was born in Chicago Lying-in Hospital in Hyde Park, Chicago on the 8th day of January in the year 1967. Kelly was born to a single mother Joanne (who was a singer) as the 3rd of 4 children in their Baptist home located in Ida B. Wells Homes public housing project in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The kid grew up in a home that could best be described as piss-poor, in addition to this, he was frequently abused sexually by a woman when his mom and grandparents were not around.
Nevertheless, he began singing at his church choir at the age 8 and also attended Kenwood Academy located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood where he excelled at playing basketball for his high school team. R Kelly’s music teacher – Lena McLin, whom he has come to refer to as his second mom noticed his musical talent and advised him to focus more on music as he would be a big music star in the future. Kelly heeded the advice and today we are all witnesses to what he has become.
R Kelly had his first personal music performance in public with a rendition of Stevie Wonder‘s Ribbon in the Sky in a high school talent show. He then ventured into street performances as a teen under the Chicago “L” tracks before he found a music group called MGM (Musically Gifted Men) in 1989. The group had as its members Marc McWilliams, Vincent Walker, and Shawn Brooks who are all Kelly’s friends and shared similar music interest.
MGM had its first single titled Why You Wanna Play Me in 1991 but shortly afterward, they were disbanded. R Kelly then went on to sign with Jive Records and subsequently joined up with Public Announcement, a music group from Chicago. With this new group, Kelly released his first album titled Born into the ’90s in 1992. By 1995, his self titled album R. Kelly was out with huge success but not as much as his next album R. Chocolate Factory came next in 2003 followed by Happy People/U Saved Me (2004), TP.3 Reloaded in 2005, Double Up (2007) which featured his collaboration with artists like Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Nelly, T-Pain, Usher, and others.
Kelly’s other albums that followed include Untitled (2009), Love Letter (2010) which marked a departure from his sexually explicit themes before he returned to them in 2013 with Black Panties. The King of R&B recorded Write Me Back in 2012, The Buffet (2015) and his last album 12 Nights of Christmas (2016). In all, his albums have all contained chart-topping songs whose lyrics have withstood the test of time.
The I Believe I Can Fly crooner who grew on the south side, earned $100,000 as his first music price money from “Big Break”, a TV talent show and later dropped out of school to pursue his music career. At the peak of his career, the R&B singer had his net worth estimated to be between $150 million to $200 million. But for his many legal troubles; accusations of sexual abuse with minors and women, which he often settled out of court paying millions, R Kelly is reportedly worth just about $1 million.
Wife and Aaliyah, Accusations and Controversies
R Kelly is currently single but has been married twice. His first marriage was with Aaliyah from 1994 to 1995 then Andrea Lee from 1996-2009. Andrea was his backup dancer and is the mother of his three children: Joann Kelly (born in 1998), Jaya Kelly (born in 2000) and Robert, Jr. (born in 2002). Kelly and Andrea at the time started having issues in their marriage which was first made manifest with Andrea filling for a restraining order in September 2005 following a physical altercation they had, then a divorce filling in 2006 which was finalized in January 2009.
Singer Aaliyah may have been married to R Kelly for a very short time, but her name is prominently mentioned whenever the book of controversies trailing the King of R&B is opened. The two married in a secret wedding ceremony on August 31, 1994, at a time when Aaliyah was underaged at 15 years old while Kelly was 27 years old at the time. Thus the marriage was annulled in February 1995 at the bidding of Aaliyah’s family as granted by a Michigan judge.
In February 2002, R Kelly’s was seen in a video which showed him having sex with an underage girl who he also urinated on. In June 2002, despite his denial of not being the man in the video, the musician was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography. Following his arrest and a subsequent search of his home, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office found 12 sexually explicit images of an underaged girl in a digital camera which corroborated his involvement of sexual misconduct with a minor (same girl in the video). However, he was declared not guilty of 14 out of 14 counts of child pornography by a Chicago jury.
Nevertheless, this did not mark the end of his sexual misconduct allegations and controversies. In July 2017, three different parents accused him of holding their daughters in an abusive cult which he, however, denied just as his alleged victims also did. In April of 2018, a former partner of R Kelly accused him of infecting her intentionally with a sexually transmitted disease which he still denied through a representative of his.
All these accusations and controversies have negatively affected R Kelly’s music career. He makes fewer tours around the world due to several countries barring him from entering their territory as a result of his many unresolved sexual misconduct cases. Even in the US where he is still relatively free, protesters often take over venues of his concerts/performance while Spotify, one of the largest online music streaming services have stopped promoting his music publicly on their platform.
R Kelly’s sexual allegation troubles and its accompanying accusations have not fizzled out. In 2019, an American pay television channel Lifetime aired a six-part documentary series (1 hour each) titled “Surviving R. Kelly” which chronicled the sexual misconducts, allegations, and victims of the singer’s inordinate sexual lust. It featured interviews with his ex-wife Andrea Kelly, Kitti Jones (one of his accusers), commentary from musician John Legend and founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke. In the wake of this, R. Kelly’s estranged daughter Joann Kelly who now identifies as Buku Abi also came out to describe her musician dad as “a monster” on Instagram.
However, R Kelly has consistently denied all these accusations, more so, he has never been convicted for any sexual misconduct. But certainly, these events are taking a toll on the singer’s music career and public image.