After several weeks of backlash following the airing of Lifetime's six-part Surviving R. Kelly documentary, Sony Music has reportedly dropped R. Kelly from its roster of artists, according to Variety. On Friday, Jan. 18, the outlet also reported that are no plans for an announcement from the record company, while a source added that RCA's (which is owned by Sony) website will make no indication of Kelly's release from the label either. However, he has since been removed from their site. (Bustle reached out to RCA for comment on this report, but did not receive an immediate response.)
According to a similar report from Billboard, Kelly's catalog will remain with RCA/Sony, which began releasing his music after Jive became part of "the Sony umbrella." The publication also noted that his music is still available to stream. A source for Variety claimed the label previously remained loyal to Kelly, despite ongoing accusations of misconduct and abuse, because he had never been convicted of a crime and he continuously maintained his innocence throughout. (R. Kelly and his attorneys have vehemently denied all claims to Bustle and other media outlets in the past.)
However, it seems that the recent push from the #MuteRKelly campaign, which has urged the entertainment industry to cut ties with the artist, as well as recent investigations into Kelly's alleged abuse stemming from the Surviving R. Kelly doc, may have served as a catalyst for his recent release from the label's roster. Additionally, earlier this week there were protests outside the Sony offices in NYC, per Rolling Stone.
Last year, as Billboard reported, the #MuteRKelly campaign, started in 2017 by Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes, joined forces with the Women of Color within the Time’s Up movement. As a team, they put increased pressure on Kelly's record label, streaming services, and other institutions associated with the 52-year-old singer to stop producing, promoting, and distributing his music.
In the wake of Surviving R. Kelly, several musicians have also taken steps to remove collaborations with him from platforms like Spotify and iTunes. Chance the Rapper recently had his song with Kelly removed from streaming services, and TIME reported that other artists — like Céline Dion, Lady Gaga, Ciara, and the Pussycat Dolls — are also in the process of pulling their music.
Additionally, BuzzFeed reported on Jan. 8 that the DA's office in Atlanta began reaching out to people who took part in the docuseries to retrieve more information on the alleged incidents. However, charges have yet to have been filed against the singer. (The Fulton County DA's Office previously declined to comment to Bustle regarding the investigations.)
The Surviving R. Kelly doc — which detailed decades of Kelly's alleged sexual abuse of women and minors — was built on more than 50 interviews with colleagues, family, friends, and survivors of the musician's alleged mistreatment. Over the years, R. Kelly has been accused multiple accounts of sexual coercion, abuse, and exploitation — many of which were covered in the shocking documentary helmed by dream hampton.
Back in 1994, several sources reported that Kelly, then 27, married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah with a falsified marriage certificate that claimed she was 18 at the time. (In the past, Kelly has declined to speak about the alleged marriage out of respect for the late singer and her family.)
Kelly was also acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008 after years of postponed court dates, according to Billboard. During that trial, prosecutors presented a videotape which they claim showed Kelly allegedly engaging in a sexual act with a young girl estimated to be approximately 13. Kelly pleaded not guilty to the charges and the alleged victim declined to testify, according to the Chicago Tribune.
More recently, in 2017, BuzzFeed published an in-depth report about Kelly, alleging that he was operating a "sex cult" (which he has denied). During Surviving R. Kelly's third installment earlier this month, cameras followed Michelle Kramer as she attempted to rescue her daughter Dominique Gardner from Kelly’s alleged hold. Additionally, Jonjelyn and Timothy Savage claimed in the docuseries that they haven't seen their daughter Joycelyn in person in over two years and their daughter is being held in Kelly's alleged "cult."
Meanwhile, Joycelyn told TMZ in a 2017 video, "I’m totally fine. I’m happy where I’m at and everything is OK with me.” The moment led many in her family to speculate that she was allegedly being brainwashed by Kelly, according to TMZ. Alice and Angelo Clary also had a similar tale, having had absolutely no contact with their daughter Azriel since 2016, according to Oxygen. Her parents also believe she is part of Kelly's alleged "sex cult."
Kelly previously denied these claims in a statement provided to The New York Times, calling the accusations an "attempt to distort my character and to destroy my legacy."
Sony's reported decision to sever their relationship with R. Kelly is perhaps one of the most important steps in potentially stifling the entertainer's ability to generate income. As artists and large companies, such as RCA and Sony, band together, any victims and survivors of Kelly's alleged abuse will hopefully feel a sense of justice and ultimately begin to be able to heal.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.