The divide over R. Kelly’s music

Lindsay Keener | Staff Writer

R. Kelly

Frank Micelotta | Associated Press

In most communities, music is said to bring people together. What happens when it has the power to tear people apart?

In the weeks after the controversial six-part docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” I have found myself disgusted with the amount of people still willing to play the music of someone facing allegations of sexually abusive behavior. Is talent justification for supporting someone who could be a monster? Is it enough to play his music on Hampton’s campus?

“Among black culture, his music is popular, and hearing it is to be expected, but it shouldn’t be played,” said Joshua Square, a criminal justice major.

There’s no denying Kelly’s popularity. His songs are heard in movies, churches and radio stations across the globe due to their catchy tunes and powerful lyrics. As an artist, Kelly has cemented himself in the hearts of many with music, but what if that same music contributes to his downfall?

The art made by an individual is a reflection of the artist themselves – what they hold dear, what plagues their mind and what sparks emotion. Many believe Kelly’s explicit songs detail sexual experiences shared between the singer and minors. If these allegations are true, they are no longer songs for enjoyment but evidence of crimes against humanity.

While using music as a tool for expression can be a great form of release for an artist, its audience may have a negative reaction. Students at Hampton a University, specifically those in music such as DJs, must recognize the impact playing certain artists can have on their classmates.

I find it hard to believe that the reasoning behind “muting” R. Kelly is lost on others. Not only has his character been called into question over the years, but the pain he may have caused sexual assault survivors is reason enough to stop supporting him. By streaming Kelly’s music on various platforms, or playing his songs at a college party, you are indirectly encouraging the advancement of men similar to Kelly in our society.

One student at Hampton University has no plans of listening to Kelly’s music in the future. She doesn’t think her peers should either.

“Even if they enjoy his music, they should refrain from listening due to what’s happening,” said Malani Tate-Defreitas, a junior biology pre-med student. “What was revealed in the documentary is sickening.”

Hampton students are not the only ones faced with the dilemma of playing Kelly’s music. Radio host Tom Joyner of the nationally syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show” was asked to end any support of the artist on his show. As expressed in the docuseries and in a variety of interviews, the decision to do so came with little to no hesitation. I can only hope the same quick thinking occurs within our campus.

As of right now, no one can determine with exact certainty what will happen to R. Kelly. The only aspect of the story we can control is what we decide to do with our knowledge.

Will we continue to play “Ignition” at events or will we take a stand against R. Kelly?

That decision is up to you.

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Richard Drew | Associated Press

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