EXCLUSIVE: It’s The Pied Piper: An Abuser Exposed… and Enabled.
Daniella Maison BA (Hons) MA
You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. Malcolm X
Trump’s presidential campaign wobbled when his victims started speaking out to accuse him of groping or kissing them without consent and while most Americans believed Donald Trump was guilty as charged, they voted him in as President anyway. As a global community, we often don’t want to do the groundwork of reevaluating our heroes, of accepting that a powerful and successful man who is a world-renowned artist, is actually a monster even when he doesn’t attempt to hide it.
R Kelly’s conviction on racketeering and sex trafficking charges came after a trial that the media is claiming has ‘shocked the world’ and opened our eyes to abuse that targeted and destroyed the lives of Black women and children. Yet much like Weinstein, R. Kelly’s perverted penchants were no secret, it was known in the industry, known by his bevvy of yes men and minions, known by his victims and it was certainly not something he went to great lengths to hide. In February 2009, I sat down to expose R. Kelly, not based on hearsay but based on what was accessible to me on public record, and the endless examples of self-made declarations via his own music both of which concerned me deeply. After months of research and sitting down with a leading journalist who had investigated rumblings and released an article on R. Kelly anonymously to protect his own life, I wrote:
‘R. Kelly loyally continues the misogynistic female slave theme paraded by his buddies 50Cent and Snoop Dogg in his video ‘Flirt’ in which we see him crowned (by one of his young concubines) as the King of R ‘n’ B. If he truly is hailed as a monarch of any domain, even a musical one, then we live in darker times that we would like to accept. R. Kelly brazenly announced some time ago that he would now prefer to be known as the ‘Pied Piper’ of RnB. His prosaic statement only served to highlight just how bamboozled we have been by the commercial entertainment industry. The ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’ is a German legend in which an adult male menacingly lures 130 children into a cave using a musical flute where they were never to be seen again. Some versions of the folk tale end with him drowning the terrified infants in a river ‘like rats.’ This is an ironic sobriquet for a man who has a particularly disturbing history of paedophilic encounters. In December 1996, a woman sued Kelly because he encouraged her to have sex with him when she was a minor and to participate in group sex with other underage girls. The Pied Piper swiftly settled the lawsuit out of court for $250,000.
In 2000, a teen rapper sued Kelly over their alleged sexual relationship while she was under the age of 16. At the same time, another woman accused him of coercing her into a sexual relationship when she was 16 years old. In 2002, Kelly settled with a fourth underage girl before she filed a lawsuit. However, a fifth underage girl sued Kelly for secretly videotaping her sexual encounter with him. In June 2002, a grand jury indicted Kelly on 21 counts of child pornography as a result of a videotape that showed him having sex with a 14-year-old girl. In January 2003, Kelly faced twelve child pornography charges after police discovered pictures of a nude, underage girl. Some pictures showed Kelly having sex with her. The charges were dropped two months later solely because a judge ruled that detectives seized the pictures unlawfully. When an interviewer from B.E.T recently asked R. Kelly if he ‘liked’ underage girls, while for most comme il faut men the response would be an adamant and somewhat offended ‘No!’ R. Kelly paused perplexedly before responding ‘when you say underage… How old are we talking?’ While R. Kelly sits and smiles at us proudly beyond his riches and across the airwaves surrounded by his harem of black slave women (or more accurately, children), will we allow him to continue to lure our children into a place of no return?’
When I wrote this in 2009, the outcry was palpable. I was met with over 100 death threats, and it was made crystal clear to me by his aficionados that my life would be at risk should I ever step foot on American soil. According to them, labelling R. Kelly a peadophile was tantamount to blasphemy.
Each time I begin this conversation, I am met with the answer ‘but it’s only entertainment’. If ever Satan sewed a more successful seed in his deceit, it was the one, he sewed through entertainment. There has always been an audience for entertainment that exploits entire genders or races, and this has never once made it any less exploitative. Or less damaging.
You see, if art imitates reality, then it can never truly be considered ‘just entertainment.’
‘Don’t ask me what my name is, stupid b***h I’m famous,
You gon make me aim this, leave you’re a** brainless.’
R. Kelly, I’m A Flirt.
Self-titled Pimp and Pied Piper, R. Kelly employed tactics that lived up to both of his titles. Isolating his victims in hotel rooms or his recording studio; subjecting them to degrading rules, such as making them call him “Daddy”; and shooting video recordings, some seen by the jury at trial, of them having sex with him and others as a means to control them. One witness said Kelly had forced her to film degrading videos as punishment for perceived wrongdoings. In one video she was told to smear feces on her face. After performing the act Kelly had said she “wasn’t into it enough” and threatened to make her “redo it”. The Assistant US Attorney Nadia Shihata said Kelly “believed the music, the fame and the celebrity meant he could do whatever he wanted.” It did.
A former tour manager for Kelly testified during the trial how he had bribed a government worker on Kelly’s behalf, to get Aaliyah a fake ID so that he could marry her when she was just 15 years old. A witness said she had seen Kelly sexually abusing Aaliyah around 1993, when Aaliyah was 13 or 14. A short memory is not the same as a clear conscience. Did he not he name a 12-year-old Aaliyah in ‘She’s Got That Vibe’, crooning ‘Little cute Aaliyah’s Got It’ before the world? The Pied Pipers despicable intentions were never hidden. Did he not write and produce the double platinum selling and hardly coded ‘Age Ain’t Nothin’ but A Number’? Who can forget the album cover that so many of us had at home with a baby-faced Aaliyah front and centre, with a slightly blurred 27-year-old R. Kelly lurking eerily in the background?
He still went on to amass $100 million whilst barely hiding his propensities.
“Only if you’re old enough, baby
Eighteen and over or sixteen and under” R. Kelly, I like the crotch on you
When I wrote a series on the representation of Black women in Hip Hop, a fan said to me that I shouldn’t publicly name and blame Snoop Dogg for his ill deeds because he is, at least, a successful Black man. Presumably for that much, we should be grateful. If ever there were such abominably low expectations placed upon a community and its role models, that is most certainly the shabbiest pathology there is. In August 2003, Snoop was named in an affidavit claiming that he and his fellow makers of the porn movie “Girls Gone Wild: Doggy Style” tape lured two underage girls to take their tops off for the camera by offering them marijuana and ecstasy… but I suppose we aren’t supposed to talk about that. Perhaps this is why so many artists need not bother to hide their intentions, since their diehard fans are too blinded by the sparkle of their blood mined bling to notice or to care how their lyrics and lifestyles manifest in real life.
‘He’s out the front, I’m in the back/I lock the front, he’s in the back/And I’ll be damned, that silly b***h is screaming ‘rape.’ R. Kelly, Down Low
Emily Dickinson once wrote that human beings would rather ‘an Ignis Fatuus than no illume at all’. The Ignis Fatuus to which she referred is the phosphorescent light that hovers and flits over swampy grounds at night. The light, however, is caused by the spontaneous combustion of gases emitted by rotting organic matter. In the darkness it may appear to be illumination. Yet it is not light at all, it is an obfuscating product of odiousness and to follow such spurious light would lead to a slow yet calamitous quicksand plunge into flooded bottomlands. Better a violent, misogynist Black man in the media than none at all is much the same fata morgana. Arguing that R. Kelly be excused and enabled purely because he is a successful African American despite his pronounced intentions to kidnap and molest our daughters, is an ambuscade.
A decade after exposing R. Kelly, I maintain that toxicity thrives on silence. Abuse, paedophilia, misogyny must always be exposed if we are to elevate our young. Abuse knows no colour. It is an injustice that must be unravelled loudly if we are to create change. The Pied Piper went on to abuse many more young girls after I sought to expose him whilst being hushed and having my life threatened by the naysayers. It’s not enough to like R. Kelly’s music because we want to ‘Step in the name of love’ at family parties, it’s not about ‘not tearing down the Black man’ when he is guilty of heinous atrocities against our Black children, who is trusting we’ll be too blinded by his music to notice his dastardly plans.
I once read that a writer is an individual who simply feels like talking on paper. I’m an individual who feels like talking on paper and pedagogically with my community about the brutal misrepresentation we suffer at the hands of the media and the music industry Let’s begin the conversation and let’s begin it by recognising the crime of female exploitation in the name of ‘entertainment’. It’s time to stop making excuses for ‘entertainment’s sake’ and dismissing the belisha beacons so that we can dance to our own demise. It’s time to start questioning and analysing the intent behind songs, lyrics, videos, and pseudonyms. We owe it to our children, so that we never enable another Pied Piper to thrive and succeed on our watch again.
Author Daniella Maison’s article series ‘Black women & Hip Hop’ went viral in 2009 and gained her critical acclaim in the USA; followed by a viral contribution on the death of Sarah Reed. Maison notably exposed R.Kelly in 2008. Her devotion to and fearlessness in raising social cause awareness has made an impact in the diaspora. Maison has most notably and bravely spoken out on issues of feminism, police brutality, FGM and honour killings, appearing in Emel Magazine, Hard knocks radio, Peace TV, New Nation, Black Thought Radio and the BBC. The N Word is set for publication next month, featuring a foreword by Benjamin Zephaniah. This year she was shortlisted for a Black Excellence award for her contribution to changing the world through words.