Last week, R. Kelly released his song, “I Admit” on Soundcloud. “I Admit” is a 19 minute and 18 second long confessional in which Kelly looks back on some of the trials and tribulations that he has so bravely conquered in his life. For the purpose of this article, I listened to “I Admit” and analyzed the lyrics, which you can find here; I don’t advise listening to the song because you could honestly use your time to do better things, like talk shit about R. Kelly or build a small house.
“I Admit” offers listeners a look at R. Kelly’s life through his own eyes. From his perspective, he’s just a man trying to make it. He’s flawed, of course, but he’s not a criminal and he’s not a bad guy. He’s misunderstood, yes, but he’s ultimately a human being who wants to make a positive contribution to the world. It’s quite telling that the things he chooses to be accountable for in the song are minor: “can’t spell for shit,” “trust people too much,” and “just need a hug,” come to mind. Basic things that the average person can wrap their head around, maybe even relate to. At one point he even admits to enjoying kinky sex, and confirms that he has had affairs with women both older and younger than he is—which, he insists, is not a crime.
I would like to make it known that I don’t think being a 51 year old man baby who is convinced that the world is out to get you is a crime. However, being a serial predator and a pedophile definitely is. Throughout the song R. Kelly maintains that his pedophilia and the numerous accusations of sexual assault, confinement, and abuse against him are part of an orchestrated attempt by the media and his haters to antagonize him. He accuses the parents of his victims of extorting him and believes people are out to get him for his money. He talks about how these parents were ok with their daughters interacting with R. Kelly until they had something to gain. He even blasts John Legend for publicly supporting the #MuteRKelly campaign, suggesting that he’s tearing him down, when he should be supporting him as a fellow Black man.
In Kelly’s perspective, he’s a victim of circumstance who has been beaten down and misrepresented. We need to reject this narrative.
In Kelly’s perspective, he’s a victim of circumstance who has been beaten down and misrepresented. He is not a monster. We need to reject this narrative: there is absolutely nothing circumstantial about seeking out young girls, raping women, filming them without their consent, and isolating them from friends and family. Grown men do not simply fall into these situations and they sure as hell don’t write 19 minute long songs about it insisting on their innocence.
There’s a lot to be said about the way he actively minimizes these events and creates an imaginary world in which he is a passive actor in the experiences of the women he’s harmed. The truth of the matter is that Kelly’s perceptions of his life, of seemingly consensual sexual interactions, are not uncommon. He has built his career, his name, and his ability to sexually abuse women and girls in an era that has readily ignored serial predators for longer than I’ve even been alive. R. Kelly is yet another artefact in the museum of powerful men who have been given a pass to be disgusting sacks of garbage without consequence and with no remorse. Harvey Weinstein was one of the biggest names in show business until very recently. Dudebros still salivate at the critical acclaim of Roman Polanski’s films. Hipsters still love Woody Allen. David Bowie’s death was widely mourned with little notice paid to his sexual encounters with 15 year olds.
Most people still have “Ignition” on a party playlist somewhere. The foundation of the careers of entertainment and music industry giants have been built on the backs of women and girls who faced their abuse. R. Kelly still has the audacity to defend himself because he’s been given that opportunity for the duration of his career. Spotify has dropped him, powerful people are speaking out against him, he released his song on Soundcloud – like a 17 year old “rapper” from the suburbs. The #MuteRKelly campaign is working and it will continue to work as long as we, consumers of music and entertainment, support it. So don’t listen to “I Admit” and take every second of “Ignition” as an opportunity to tell your friends about R. Kelly’s predatory history.