When Lifetime’s original Surviving R. Kelly docuseries first premiered on the network in 2018, longtime fans of R. Kelly were forced to reckon with the reality of the man behind the mic.
Although there are some who still supported the R&B singer’s music, many hit mute on R. Kelly for good once they learned that his lyrics had been inspired by his relationships with his alleged sexual abuse victims. Amid R. Kelly’s fall from grace sprung forth a social media-originated movement, #MuteRKelly, with the hope Kelly would be forced into accountability for the alleged crimes. Shortly after, streaming giant Spotify scrubbed him from editorial playlists, although his music is still on the platform. Eventually, the embattled R&B singer was also dropped from his label and publisher, RCA Records Universal Music Publishing Group, according to Rolling Stone.
However, singer-songwriter and talk show host Syleena Johnson, who previously collaborated with R. Kelly on “Guess What” and “I Am Your Woman,” is of a less popular opinion in regards to the controversy.
In a recent interview with Page Six, Johnson voiced that fans of the R&B singer should not feel obligated to cancel him or stop listening to his music because of his current legal predicament. In spite of the damning allegations, Johnson told Page Six she doesn't think “people should find themselves responsible for his actions because they love his music.”
“During that time when you heard that music, you were in a pure place where you received something lyrically that inspired and motivated you. Hold on to that. That’s not your fault that he created this,” she justified. “So if we can’t listen to his music, [then] we can’t watch another Harvey Weinstein movie. We can’t watch none [sic] of Bill Cosby’s shows.”
She added, “God created these people. They are still created by the Lord. He also designed them to put those good things in the world. Whether they are attached to these terrible things…that’s not our responsibility.”
Ironically, Johnson spoke to the Associated Press in 2019 about her decision to no longer sing “I Am Your Woman,” after Surviving R. Kelly aired. She co-wrote the song R. Kelly in 2001 when they were both signed to Sony’s Jive Records.
“I’m in tears because I’ve been singing that the whole time,” Johnson said at the time. “I’m thinking of it as, ‘We 16, we grew up together, in a relationship together. But no, now that I know what I know, that’s not what that means. How can I sing ‘I Am Your Woman’ ever again? It brings me to tears almost when I think about it.”
Currently, R. Kelly is facing indictments in three states related to sexual abuse, child pornography, and obstruction of justice. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, he has trial dates set for March 5 in Chicago and July 7 in Brooklyn.
(Photo L-R: Paras Griffin/Getty Images and Earl Gibson III/Getty Images for BET)