R. Kelly: The real reason you don't hear from him anymore

At one point, it seemed like R. Kelly was everywhere. After breaking away from Public Announcement in the early '90s, he released his career-launching debut solo album12 Play, in 1993, a record of tender ballads and slow-burning tunes. As the years went on, he remained a potent talent, effortlessly skipping from a sex symbol to a one-man gospel, to a suave bad boy to a storytelling genius. And it wasn't long before he gave himself the title of "King of R&B" (via MTV News).

But he's staggered quite a bit in recent years. Actually, the last time you heard from R. Kelly, he was probably trapped in a closet or somewhere stepping in the name of love. That's because, as the years have gone by, serious allegations, gossip, and multiple missteps have encroached on his popularity. So let's get into the question on everyone's minds: What's the real reason we don't we hear much from R. Kelly anymore?

New directions

After decades in the R&B universe, R. Kelly seemed to set his eyes on reaching new heights in 2017. He went from topping the charts to starring in a powerhouse fashion campaign by famed designer Alexander Wang. Kelly posed for Wang's SS17 digital campaign, where, according to High Snobiety, he appeared "alongside fashion model Anna Ewers." But Kelly didn't completely turn over a new leaf, as the blog pointed out that he still puffed away on a stogie throughout the shoot in typical R. Kelly fashion.

His foray into modeling came just a year after he released the Christmas album 12 Nights of Christmas, ditching his signature sexually explicit tunes for a project filled with cheerful holiday songs like "Mrs. Santa Claus" and "I'm Sending You My Love for Christmas." Speaking to Rolling Stone about the possibilities of his career back in 2013, Kelly explained, "I love that I can play around with all types of music." 

"I like that I can change lanes and do all different kinds of music," he continued. "Fans can never accuse R. Kelly of doing the same thing, I keep mixing it up."

It's possible that his surprising career moves may have put off some fans, though certain allegations brought against him likely did far more damage to his reputation…

Allegations ... and more allegations

Kelly's music career has been defined by two things. The first is his raunchy, baby-making tunes. And the other is allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, dating as far back as 1994 when he reportedly secretly married a then-15-year-old Aaliyah when he was 27. Many of those transgressions came to light at the hands of Chicago Sun-Times reporters Jim DeRogatis and Abdon M. Pallasch, when they wrote the paper's first major investigative piece into those claims in 2000. In 2002, DeRogatis received and reported on a video of Kelly allegedly having sex with an underage girl, leading to the singer's arrest on child pornography charges, as reported by CNN. Though he was later acquitted of those charges, his troubles were really just getting started (via The New York Times).

In 2017, DeRogatis published a bombshell story with BuzzFeed, reporting on claims that Kelly was running a sex cult. Alleged victims were reportedly young women who initially approached him for help with their careers, but Kelly was said to have taken control of their lives instead, and would dictate "what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records." Former associates of Kelly's claimed that if these women break the rules, they are physically and verbally abused. 

"R. Kelly is the sweetest person you will ever want to meet," Asante McGee, an alleged former member of "Kelly's inner circle," told BuzzFeed. "But Robert is the devil."

Time's up

When comedian Bill Cosby was found guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault in April 2018, as reported by ABC News, it sparked a renewed effort to bring alleged abusers to justice, including — you guessed it — R. Kelly (via NPR). The hashtag #MuteRKelly quickly began trending online, calling for a boycott of the singer and catching the attention of the Women of Color in the Time's Up movement. As shared on Instagram, the organization stated, "The scars of history make certain that we are not interested in persecuting anyone without just cause. With that said, we demand appropriate investigations and inquiries into the allegations of R. Kelly's abuse made by women of color and their families for over two decades now." They also called on venues to stop doing business with him, and it worked. According to HuffPost, Kelly was even booted from a performance in his very own hometown.

The campaign also demanded that corporations cut ties with Kelly, which brings us to our next point…

He got censored on streaming platforms

On the heels of the #MuteRKelly campaign, Spotify rolled out a policy to stop promoting artists like R. Kelly who have been accused of "hateful conduct." As reported by Billboard, Spotify removed his songs from their most popular playlists and "other genre- or mood-based playlists." 

In a statement, Spotify explained, "His music will still be available on the service, but Spotify will not actively promote it. We don't censor content because of an artist's or creator's behavior, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values." Spotify would later scale back the policy after Kendrick Lamar's label head reportedly threatened to pull the rapper's music from the platform, but it wouldn't exactly matter for R. Kelly because, by then, Apple Music and Pandora had already followed suit.

Shortly after the initial policy was announced, Kelly spoke out against it via a rep, as reported by Variety, but, well, in the words of Kelly himself, "When a woman's fed up, there ain't nothing you can do about it."

He told all

Perhaps what's fascinated the world most about R. Kelly is that he's always been such a puzzling figure, slowly dishing out new and unexpected details about his life with each of his music releases. Then, in 2018, he released a 19-minute track titled "I Admit," in which he basically discussed everything about his life. As Essence noted, the song addresses everything from "his illiteracy and his predilection for young women, to his current status as 'a broke-ass legend' and 'the most disrespected artist' in the game." 

Additionally, in the song, he continued to deny the many allegations that have been made against him — a move that reportedly garnered some major eye rolls and scoffs from critics of the self-proclaimed "Pied Piper of R&B," as reported by USA Today. And, considering the seriousness of the allegations made against him, we doubt the lengthy song will suddenly garner R. Kelly praise anytime soon.

Did the music industry distance itself?

In May 2018, The Washington Post published a lengthy article claiming that music industry executives knew of R. Kelly's alleged sexual indiscretions but ignored them because of his star power. It practically put everyone who had been around Kelly throughout his drama on blast, "from the billionaire record executive who first signed the dynamic young vocalist in the early 1990s to the low-paid assistants who arranged flights, food and bathroom breaks for his traveling entourage of young women." Unsurprisingly, many music executives in question declined the publication's request for comment, seemingly trying to distance themselves from the contentious and career-threatening topic. 

Kelly's former tour manager, Demetrius Smith, described a dire warning he gave to Jive Records founder Clive Calder in the early '90s about Kelly's behavior. "Clive, you all need to tell him that you all aren't going to put out his records if he continues to have these incidents with these girls after the show," he recalled saying, noting to The Washington Post, "Because it was going on at every show."

As of this writing, Kelly still has a record deal with RCA, but, at this point, we suspect he's only hanging onto the deal by a thread while they're trying to figure out what to do with him next.

Aiming for a comeback

With all the blowback and condemnation R. Kelly has experienced over the years, he's apparently decided to take a step back and do some much-needed regrouping in an attempt to revitalize his career. In fact, insiders told The Blast that Kelly's team has been working "furiously" to find people that can give him a "comeback campaign," reaching out to the most powerful publicists in Hollywood for help after key members of his team quit in 2018 (via Billboard). However, some PR firms have declined to work with him, likely fearing what could happen if they chose to represent the disgraced "Feelin' On Yo Booty" singer.

Still, insiders told the outlet that Kelly has been diligently working on new music, so who knows what will happen. Will he be able to replicate the success of "Ignition (Remix)" or "Bump N' Grind," or has his time in the spotlight finally run dry?

A little thing called bad publicity

Kelly arguably alienated both members of the media and his fans in 2015 when he gave an explosive interview to HuffPost Live. While promoting his album The Buffet, the singer was asked by reporter Caroline Modarressy-Tehran how the various allegations against him have impacted the way fans consume his music. And the question didn't go over too well. A visibly annoyed Kelly took off on a sexist rant against Modarressy-Tehrani, commenting on her appearance and questioning her level of intelligence. He then suggested that the interview felt like an interrogation and that she was taking a deposition, before asking the host if she knew what the word "deposition" meant.

Despite Modarressy-Tehrani trying to ask him questions, Kelly ultimately decided to leave the interview, walking off set after telling her, "This interview is over." 

Man, who would want to book someone with that kind of behavior? We'll tell you: no one.

His fans jumped ship

With all of the criticism he's faced over the years, things have started to look increasingly bleak for the Chocolate Factory crooner. His 2016 album, The Buffet, only reached No. 11 on the Billboard charts and his holiday album, 12 Nights of Christmas, stalled out at No. 97, marking some of R. Kelly's worst chartings in his decades-long career.

The backlash to the sex cult allegations against him, specifically, even appeared to result in a series of canceled shows in 2017. According to TMZ, four of ten concerts in Kelly's After Party tour were canceled, with sources attributing the cancelations to poor ticket sales. It probably was something people saw coming, though, considering how one of Kelly's previous shows was only filled to about 50 percent capacity, per TMZ.

What's ironic is, in the aforementioned interview with HuffPost Live, Kelly told the host that his fans were "the only people" who could fire him, and, well, it looks like many have basically done just that.