R. Kelly has been under intense scrutiny since an explosive BuzzFeed investigative report about his treatment of women, and now officials in Georgia’s most populous county want Live Nation to cancel his upcoming Atlanta performance there.
“We are writing you to express our grave concern” that Live Nation scheduled the R. Kelly concert, the letter from the county attorney reads. “Based on allegations reported in various news media regarding the artist, the citizens of Fulton County have expressed their collective concerns that Live Nation would allow this artist to perform at a venue that is supported in part by taxpayers.”
The Fulton County board’s chairman, John Eaves, held a press conference Friday morning to explain the decision to write the letter, citing duties to represent concerned taxpayers and to honor “the legacy of the civil rights movement” in Fulton County.
“My goal is not to declare Mr. Kelly guilty of any crime, but it is my role as an elected official to speak out on a moral basis,” Eaves said. “As the top elected official, I wanted to give voice to our constituents.”
Kenyette Barnes, who represents the petition group #MuteRKelly, spoke after Eaves and said the group is prepared to protest outside the venue if Live Nation does not cancel the concert.
“This is about understanding that the platform given to Mr. Kelly unfortunately provides him the insulation when he gets caught up in these precarious situations, or the legal counsel that gets him out,” Barnes said. “We need to send a message that our girls matter.”
A spokeswoman for Live Nation said Friday that “the show is proceeding” and wouldn’t comment further. (While the county owns the venue, Live Nation has taken over the amphitheater’s promotions and operations this year.)
The BuzzFeed story, written last month by veteran music journalist Jim DeRogatis, cites named sources and documents to paint a portrait of the singer using his fame to lure young women and hold them under psychological control, with one set of parents telling police their daughter is “being held against her will” in what they dubbed a “cult.” Three former members of the singer’s inner circle, DeRogatis writes, “provided details supporting the parents’ worst fears.” All the women in his inner circle, DeRogatis writes, are of the legal age of consent.
According to the story, the young women’s movements and social media access are restricted while in his homes, including one in the Fulton County municipality of Johns Creek.
R. Kelly has denied the allegations. His lawyer, Linda Mensch, provided a statement to media last month, stating the singer “unequivocally denies such allegations and will work diligently and forcibly to pursue his accusers and clear his name.” When asked for an updated statement earlier this week, she referred to R. Kelly’s publicist, who has not returned The Post’s inquiry.
In a video published by TMZ, one of the young women denied the allegations, saying “I’m not being brainwashed or anything like that.” Her parents held a press conference, saying they believe she is being “coached” to make such statements.
Petitions to cancel R. Kelly concerts and remove him from radio airplay have come and gone over the years. The Fulton County Board of Commissioners’s six members unanimously decided to send the letter, Eaves told The Post earlier this week.
“When the concert of R. Kelly was announced, it coincided with the recent allegations of R. Kelly in our county, and a growing number of constituents began contacting me directly, the chair, sharing their consternation about him performing on Aug. 25,” Eaves said.
The emails to Eaves and his fellow commissioners began about a week and half ago. The letter, at the least, is “a serving of notice of sorts to Live Nation now, and letting the public know their local government is concerned, without overstepping some sort of legal grounds,” given the county’s contract with Live Nation, Eaves added.
“It’s just folks who are contacting me because they are concerned, and who are really connected to the issue of sex and human trafficking, dehumanizing of women, exploitation of women,” Eaves said. “As I hear from my constituents, they also see this narrative. It’s not just like this is a one-shot thing, but there’s a history of this type of conduct, and it now has culminated in not only the most recent public allegations here in our own backyard, but doggone it, the man is also performing in our county.”
DeRogatis has been covering R. Kelly for two decades. He co-bylined the first major investigative story into R. Kelly in 2000 at the Chicago Sun-Times, writing the singer “used his position of fame and influence as a pop superstar to meet girls as young as 15 and have sex with them, according to court records and interviews.”
R. Kelly would eventually face more than a dozen counts of making child pornography after a videotape was anonymously sent to DeRogatis at the Sun-Times. The recording showed R. Kelly having sex, allegedly with an underage girl. Five years later, R. Kelly was found not guilty in a jury trial.
In 1994, a 27-year-old R. Kelly married Aaliyah, who was 15 at the time. The falsified marriage certificate, which listed her age as 18, was published by Vibe months after the ceremony. Months later, they annulled the marriage.
Throughout all the allegations and controversies, R. Kelly has denied wrongdoing, maintained his formidable fan base and has experienced major commercial success. In recent years, some of his performances have been canceled, but he’s managed to avoid being ostracized by the mainstream. He performed on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in December and starred in a 2017 Alexander Wang fashion campaign.
Oronike Odeleye, a managing director of Atlanta arts organization Creative Currents, has been leading some of the calls to remove R. Kelly from Atlanta-area radio stations and cancel his upcoming concert.
“The courts haven’t been able to do anything,” Odeleye told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “It really kind of came to me. If we are going to shut this man down, we’re going to have to take things into our own hands.”
Since the BuzzFeed story, R. Kelly has canceled four concerts, including ones in Dallas and Baton Rouge (and, according to TMZ, amid sagging ticket sales). A Los Angeles concert was also canceled, with a source telling TMZ it had to do with a scheduling conflict.
Last week, R. Kelly posted a video on Twitter, saying, “Despite all of the crap y’all hearing, I will be coming to the East Coast to do my show, and believe me, y’all, it’s a bunch of crap.”
According to a Page Six report, his booking agency, Monterey International, was preparing to drop him. An agent at the firm said “no comment” when asked if he represented the singer. His artist page is no longer available on the agency’s website, and he’s not listed in a roster of talent that is dated July 27. Monterey referred questions to R. Kelly’s lawyer (who, again, referred to his publicist).
This post has been updated.