R. Kelly has become known as one of the most controversial figures in the music industry — and for good reason. In addition to his platinum-selling hits and influential R&B style, his career has also been marked by controversy that has only grown in severity over the years.
Despite having been repeatedly accused of having sexual relationships with young women — and marrying at least one of them — Kelly, who has never been convicted in relation to any of the accusations against him, but who has settled various complaints out of court and has repeatedly denied the many claims that have come to light over the years.
In fact, the “Bump n' Grind” singer denied the latest crop of allegations that arose earlier this year by releasing a 19-minute song called “I Admit” in July, the lyrics of which consist of him admitting to comparatively small trespasses, like not being a great speller (people have claimed he’s actually illiterate), but calling the various sexual assault accusations against him “absurd” and “silly.”
Here are five of the most shocking claims to have been made about him during his decades-long career.
1. R. Kelly stands trial for allegedly making a sex tape with his underage goddaughter.
It was the sex tape that launched a national conversation. After having been accused of sexual misconduct before and settling out of court — and marrying the late singer Aaliyah when she was only 15 — Kelly had been no stranger to controversy, but in 2002, the “Bump n’ Grind” singer became the center of a years-long legal battle after an anonymous party leaked a sex tape to the media that allegedly featured Kelly engaged in a sexual encounter with, and urinating on, an underage girl.
Kelly's co-star was later identified as his goddaughter Roshona Landfair, who was alleged to be only 13 or 14 years old when the explicit video was filmed, Reuters reports. Kelly was charged with 14 counts of videotaping, producing or soliciting child pornography months later, according to the outlet.
After a lengthy legal battle during which Kelly claimed that the video was fake, and the girl in the footage refused to participate in the hearings at all, a jury spent less than a day deliberating before finding him not guilty on all counts.
2. R. Kelly denies grooming multiple women and keeping them in a cult where they are trained to please him sexually.
A group of young women being brainwashed and held prisoner by a powerful man who controls everything they do, from the way that they dress to what they eat? It may sound like the plot of a psychological horror movie, but a shocking exposé published by BuzzFeed last year claimed that keeping what seemed like a harem of women at his beck and call by isolating them from their families was Kelly’s M.O.
Kelly has been keeping five women at his homes in Chicago and Atlanta, ranging in age from 18 years old to 35, BuzzFeed claimed in its report, which alleges that he refers to the group as his “babies” while they call him “daddy."
Kelly allegedly controls everything the women do; he tells them how to wear their hair, what they should eat and when they should sleep. He routinely makes them dress in “jogging suits” so that their bodies won’t be exposed, and if they are in the presence of other men, Kelly has them face the wall because he does not like for other men to look at them, the report claimed.
Kelly has a variety of strict rules in place that his “babies” must adhere to, and if they break the rules at all, he punishes them verbally and/or physically, according to BuzzFeed. However, many of the women do not believe that they are in a cult. Joycelyn Savage, one of Kelly’s alleged “babies,” issued public statements of her own last year, denying being brainwashed and calling her parent’s attempted interventions “embarrassing.”
Kelly's management team later denied “the many dark descriptions put forth by instigators and liars who have their own agenda for seeking profit and fame,” according to the New York Times.
“All of the women targeted by the current media onslaught are legal adults of sound mind and body, with their own free will,” their statement read. “Law enforcement officials in Atlanta and Chicago previously have made ‘wellness’ visits to check on the women in question and have found nothing to cause alarm.”
3. R. Kelly’s ex-wife claims that he abused her during their marriage.
Andrea Kelly was married to R. Kelly for 13 years before their divorce in 2009. She’s alleged that during that time, Kelly was emotionally and physically abusive, and on one occasion even came close to killing her.
The former Mrs. Kelly, an accomplished dancer, choreographer and actress, told her story for the first time on TV One’s “Sister Circle” talk show in June, where she revealed that she came close to ending her own life before coming to the realization that Kelly’s behavior was abusive.
Talking to “The View” in October, Andrea Kelly provided more details, recalling an instance when her former husband got angry at her during an argument and “hogtied” her on a bed. It was only when he fell asleep that she was able to eventually loosen the cloth binding her and escape, she said.
On another occasion, the R&B star nearly killed her during an argument, this time in the back of a Hummer, she said. Kelly had pressed her down with his body and had his forearm digging into her neck, inadvertently obstructing her breathing, she explained.
“And I just remember sitting in the back of the Hummer and it got blue and I just thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m gonna die in the back of this Hummer and he’s gonna drive off with my body in the backseat and nobody’s gonna know,” she said. She survived by telling Kelly, “you’re gonna kill me,” she said.
Kelly's team declined to comment to “The View,” according to Billboard.
Facing backlash after coming forward with her claims, Andrea took a stand against victim shaming in a lengthy Instagram post earlier this year.
She reiterated her initial claims against her ex, writing, “I AM A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS. I am a #SURVIVOR OF SEUXAL ABUSE *EMOTIONAL ABUSE* PHYSICAL ABUSE *ECONOMIC ABUSE at the hands of my EX husband.”
4. Jerhonda Pace says she was trained to please Kelly, had to call him daddy.
Jerhonda Pace, 24, claimed she was 16 years old when she began having a sexual relationship with R. Kelly during her first televised interview last August.
Her accusations run the gamut: Kelly kept her in his home and controlled her comings and goings, forced her dress up like a schoolgirl — complete with pigtails — and filmed their sexual encounters without her permission.
One of the most disturbing aspects of Pace’s story was her claim that Kelly had another woman “train” her on how best to please him.
Pace came on Kelly’s tour bus one day to find him nude with another woman, she told “The Real” last year.
“I guess he saw that I was looking uneasy and I wanted to know what am I doing,” she said. “That’s when he told me to look at her and he said, ‘She’s going to teach you everything you need to know. She’s going to please you.’ He told me to remove my clothes and that’s when me and her engaged in sexual activity.”
Kelly abused her during their relationship, Pace also claimed: “I was slapped and I was choked and I was spit on.”
Pace eventually escaped from Kelly’s home by getting the singer to agree to let her go to her uncle’s house to pick up a pair of shoes; it was a lie, but it earned her her freedom, she said. She never went back, and though she broke the confidentiality agreement Kelly had her sign by sharing her alleged experiences publicly, she described it as a necessary part of her “healing process.”
Kelly's publicist called Pace's claims "false" and claimed that her story was "the result of the effort of those with personal agendas who are working in concert to interfere with and damage his career," CNN reports.
5. Kelly’s alleged former girlfriend accuses him of preying on underage girls, giving her an STD.
A 20-year-old Texas woman claimed in April that Kelly not only groomed her to eventually become a member of his alleged sex cult, but that he knowingly infected her with herpes in the process.
Faith Rodgers was 19 years old when she and Kelly began a relationship that would last for nearly a year, she told “CBS This Morning” during her first TV interview.
Rodgers believed that Kelly wanted her to one day join a group of five women that she said he “raises” and refers to as his “family.” She accused Kelly of being someone who routinely “pursues teenage [and] underage” girls and “lures” them into having sex with him. Kelly only began asking about her age after they'd already had sex for the first time, she claimed.
“You know, if you’re really, you know, 16, that you can tell daddy, right?” Kelly allegedly said.
Rogers also claimed that Kelly sometimes kept her locked in a van for hours on end.
She eventually chose to end the relationship, and later filed a lawsuit against the famed performer, accusing him of “knowingly and intentionally” giving her herpes and engaging in other forms of criminal misconduct, including “unlawful restraint” and “furnishing alcohol and illegal drugs to a minor.”
Kelly later “categorically” denied all claims and allegations” via a statement to the Huffington Post.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.