On Wednesday night, Jack Antonoff, a founding member of Fun, Bleachers, and hit-making producer for the likes of Taylor Swift and Lorde, took to Twitter to say what I desperately wish more of his ilk would: “I hope my label drops R. Kelly. I’ve discussed it with him them a number of times.”
The post has since been deleted, but I want to relay the following compliment all the same: Thank you, Jack Antonoff, for being a useful white man. Actually, thank you for being a useful man in general. Hell, you know what? Thank you for just being a damn human being of decency.
I continue to struggle with the music industry’s collective refusal to do away with him. Yes, Pissy wasn’t convicted, but the same can be said about O.J. Simpson. We don’t need an If I Did It from Kelly though frankly, a quickly annulled marriage to a teenager is arguably that. Regardless of how one feels about allegations stemming from the 1990s and 2000s, though, as we’ve learned in recent months, there are plenty of newer allegations of sexual abuse that have been leveled against the singer-songwriter.
In a new BBC3 documentary, R Kelly: Sex, Girls and Videotapes, Kelly’s former girlfriend, Kitti Jones, claims that during the two years she dated him, she was forced to have sex with him and others at least 10 times in what was described as a “sex dungeon.” She also claims that she was “groomed” by him and that he has “trained” other girls — literal girls.
“I was introduced to one of the girls, that he told me he ‘trained’ since she was 14, those were his words,” Jones revealed. I saw that she was dressed like me, that she was saying the things I’d say and her mannerisms were like mine. That’s when it clicked in my head that he had been grooming me to become one of his pets. He calls them his pets.”
Kelly says the woman was made to “crawl on the floor towards me and perform oral sex on me” as he went on to state, “This is my f*cking pet, I trained her. She’s going to teach you how to be with me.” Jones is the same woman who told Rolling Stone last fall that she was physically abused by Kelly. Before that, Jones, along with three other woman, spoke with Jim DeRogatis, the writer who broke the story of the R. Kelly sex tape more than a decade ago, about the alleged “sex cult” Kelly runs.
All of these women have been incredibly detailed about their dealings with Kelly. They are disturbing to hear and to read, but it is important that we bring greater awareness to their stories. And yet, people either don’t believe these women, or worse, they believe them and simply do not care.
In an interview with Buzzfeed News’ AM to DM, DeRogatis repeated his assertion that part of the reason why Kelly has managed to continue his career is a societal devaluation of the lives of Black girls and women. It’s why Sam Smith is spotted in an R. Kelly t-shirt despite such clothing being more fitting for an incinerator rather than any human body. It’s why other younger artists continue to collaborate with him. It’s also sadly why, if you take a look at R. Kelly’s tour schedule on Ticketmaster, you can see that he is still not only touring, but with other Black artists of his age group — those of whom who not only undoubtedly heard stories about Kelly in the past, but now have daughters themselves. Why hasn’t anything clicked?
I don’t know why Jack Antonoff deleted his tweet, but I appreciate him even temporarily vocalizing that as someone in the music industry, he is repulsed by the idea of being on the same label as R. Kelly. Maybe there are artists at RCA who feel the same, and like him, have said something to label bosses. However, as we hear more women step up to tell their stories, it would mean a great deal if like Antonoff, they would publicize their discomfort with an accused sexual predator still having space at a major record label.