Structured as a confessional, the song is more of a defense of his behaviors and accusations against him. In one line, he sings, “I admit I’m a freak” who used to go to the strip club weekly and messed with “all the ladies, that’s both older and younger ladies. But tell me how they call it pedophile, because that” is crazy.
Throughout the track, Kelly accuses “haters” of trying to destroy his career. “You may have your opinions, entitled to your opinions,” he sings. “But really am I supposed to go to jail or lose my career because of your opinion.”
He sings “they tryna lock me up like Bill” — presumably a reference to comedian Bill Cosby, who was convicted earlier this year on three counts of sexual assault.
Kelly has been a super-popular singer since the early 1990s, who has also stood accused of abusing women and having sexual relations with underage girls. He has settled several sexual and physical abuse lawsuits, and in 2008 he was acquitted of child pornography. The alleged victim and her parents declined to testify during the high-profile trial.
The years of settlements and other allegations received new attention after journalist Jim DeRogatis — who has chronicled Kelly’s alleged behavior for years — published a 2017 BuzzFeed story in which former girlfriends and others painted a portrait of a celebrity who controls the movements and lives of a group of live-in sexual partners. The parents of one of the girlfriends, who has said she is doing fine, told police their daughter is being held against her will and is a part of a “cult.”
In May, Washington Post reporter Geoff Edgers detailed how the music industry turned a blind eye to Kelly’s behavior for decades.
Kelly has long denied the allegations. “We deny the many dark descriptions put forth by instigators and liars who have their own agenda for seeking profit and fame,” his management said in a statement in May.
His team also called an effort by Time’s Up’s Women of Color to get record label RCA to drop Kelly a “public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.” The revelations have also inspired an effort to boycott Kelly’s concerts and get him pulled from radio play.
In his new song, Kelly addresses the growing backlash against him, citing DeRogatis directly: “To Jim DeRogatis, whatever your name is / You been tryna destroy me for 25 whole years,” he sings. ” … Off my name, you done went and made yourself a career / But guess what? I pray for you and your family, and all my other enemies.”
Kelly also sings, “I ain’t chasing these ladies, no / These ladies are chasing me” and “how they gon’ say I don’t respect these women, when all I’ve done is represent / Take my career and turn it upside down, ’cause you mad I’ve got some girlfriends.”
He says he had a conversation with Wendy Williams that alluded to his illegal marriage with singer Aaliyah, when he was 27 and she was 15 (her parents quickly discovered the union and eventually had it expunged):
I admit that I told it all
From my good points to my faults
She said “What about Aaliyah?”
I said, “love”
She said “What about the tape?”
I said “hush”
I said my lawyer said “don’t say noth'”
But I can tell you I’ve been set up
Kelly name-checks several stars who have publicly gone against him this year, including popular radio morning host Tom Joyner, who said he won’t play R. Kelly’s music anymore, and John Legend. “They’re doing good in their lives right now, why would they wanna tear down another brother,” Kelly sings.
He also says, “Women, show black men some love / ’Cause black men, we go through enough. How can we get up off the ground, when we steady tearing each other down.” Later, probably referencing the Time’s Up campaign against him, Kelly sings that “they don’t want me to shine, women’s group, my god / Now don’t get it twisted, I do support ’em, but why they wanna bring down the R.”
Kelly says the allegations of brainwashing, kidnapping and not letting his entourage of sexual partners eat and move about freely are “absurd” and “silly.” He also directly addresses the parents of Joycelyn Savage, now 22, who have accused the singer of controlling her. Kelly met Savage when she was 19 at a concert with her mother there.
“Her father dropped her off at my show / And told this boy to put her on,” he sings, noting she was “overage.”
Kelly sings, “I was feelin’ her and I admit that she was feelin’ me,” and then gives advice to the parents: “Don’t push your daughter in my face, and tell me that it’s okay / ’Cause your agenda is to get paid, and gettin’ mad when it don’t go your way.”
Throughout the song, Kelly also sings about being broke, not owning the rights to his own music, his struggles with literacy and being sexually abused as a child.
He laments that Spotify removed him from their playlists, calls social media “the devil in disguise” and proclaims his music has “nothing to do with my private life.”
“I never thought it would come to this, to be the most disrespected artist,” he sings. “So I had to write a song about this, ’cause they always take my words and twist it.”
The track’s release attracted criticism, including some from other musicians.