R Kelly: The R&B superstar and sex-trafficker

·3-min read
R Kelly: The R&B superstar and sex-trafficker (Alamy/PA)
R Kelly: The R&B superstar and sex-trafficker (Alamy/PA)

US singer R Kelly is due to be sentenced on counts of racketeering and sex-trafficking, with further charges relating to bribery and forced labour.

Here is everything you need to know about the singer’s career and the allegations brought against him over the years.

R7NYN4 R. Kelly performs in concert at the James L. Knight Center in Miami, Florida on March 23, 2006.
R7NYN4 R. Kelly performs in concert at the James L. Knight Center in Miami, Florida on March 23, 2006.

The singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, found fame after he performed on the talent TV show Big Break as part of the group MGM in 1989.

He left the group in 1993 to launch his solo career, with his debut solo album 12 Play released in November of that year, which featured Kelly’s first number one hit Bump N’ Grind.

In 1998, he was nominated for several Grammy awards for his song I Believe I Can Fly, which won him Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Song and Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.

The song became an inspirational anthem played at school graduations, weddings, advertisements and elsewhere, including the inauguration of former US president Barack Obama in 2008.

2DM7MRF CD Single: R. Kelly – “If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time”
2DM7MRF CD Single: R. Kelly – “If I Could Turn Back the Hands of Time”

Kelly has released a total of six studio albums and worked with famous faces in the music industry including Jay-Z, UsherCeline Dion, Mariah Carey, Mary J Blige, and Jennifer Hudson.

He has faced consistent allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct throughout his career.

In 1994, then aged 27, he married 15-year-old singer Aaliyah at a secret ceremony in Chicago, though the marriage was later annulled after the teenager was found to have lied about her age on the marriage certificate.

Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album Ain’t Nothing But ANumber.

The young singer later died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.

Kelly faced further accusations of having sexual relations with underage women in 1996, 2001 and 2002.

2J8WXTF R. Kelly, right, arrives with manager Derrel McDavid at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building for his child pornography trial on May 20, 2008, in Chicago. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
2J8WXTF R. Kelly, right, arrives with manager Derrel McDavid at the Cook County Criminal Courts Building for his child pornography trial on May 20, 2008, in Chicago. (Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

He was charged with 21 counts of making child sexual abuse videos involving various sexual acts in June 2002, but was acquitted on all counts following trial in 2008.

In 2017, an article in Buzzfeed brought fresh allegations that Kelly had trapped six women in a sex “cult” having taken advantage of them after they approached him for help with their musical careers.

The singer was accused of controlling the women’s lives, including what they ate and wore, when they sleep, and kept records of their sexual activity.

The article prompted more alleged victims to come forward.

In January 2019, a six-part documentary titled Surviving R Kelly, detailing the allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct against the singer, aired on US TV network Lifetime.

KT5CT0 R. Kelly mug shot
KT5CT0 R. Kelly mug shot

Soon after Kelly appeared in an interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, in which he insisted on his innocence and had an emotional outburst in which he stood up, pounded his chest and shouted, forcing the interview to be paused.

He was later arrested in July and charged with sex trafficking offences including child abuse images and obstruction of justice.

The trial in New York was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and a last-minute shake-up of the singer’s legal team.

Kelly was convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking in September 2021 after just two days of jury deliberations.

Shortly after a federal judge ordered that the singer stand trial in Chicago on child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in a trial due to take place after his sentencing.

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