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R. Kelly has a new album in stores called Black Panties, and it seems like good music has granted the R&B singer a pass for his past transgressions. Sure the Internet went in on the Pied Piper thanks to an ill-conceived #AskRKelly hashtag, but the details of the multiple settled lawsuits that accused him of having sexual relationships with teenaged girls have been glossed over by most music publications. 

Well the Village Voice spoke with the original reporter, Jim DeRogatis, that broke the story of Kelly’s alleged sexual affinity for young women, and he had no problem sharing the sordid details of what he learned covering the story. For example, there had been numerous lawsuits against R. Kelly that were essentially covered up, in plain sight.

Reports the Village Voice:

The next day at the Sun-Times, we got this anonymous fax — we didn’t know where it came from. It said: R. Kelly’s been under investigation for two years by the sex-crimes unit of the Chicago police. And I threw it on the corner of my desk. I thought: “player-hater.” Now, from the beginning, there were rumors that Kelly likes them young. And there’d been this Aaliyah thing — Vibe printed, without much commentary and no reporting, the marriage certificate. Kelly or someone had falsified her age as 18. There was that. So all this is floating in the air. This fax arrives and I think, “Oh, this is somebody playing with this.” But there was something that nagged at me as a reporter. There were specific names, specific dates, and those great, long Polish cop names. And you’re not going to make that crap up. So I went to the city desk and I asked, “What do we do with this?” They said Abdon Pallasch is the courts reporter, why don’t you two look into it and see if there’s anything there? And it turns out there had been lawsuits that had been filed that had never been reported.

When you cover the courts in Chicago or any city, you go twice a day and you go through the bin of cases that have been filed and every once in a while Michael Jordan’s been sued or someone went bankrupt and it’s this sexy story and you pull it out. These suits had been filed at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Ain’t no reporter working at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and they flew under the radar. So we had these lawsuits that were explosive and we didn’t understand why nobody had reported them.

DeRogatis described what was in the lawsuits as “stomach churning,” and that may be an understatement.

The one young woman, who had been 14 or 15 when R. Kelly began a relationship with her, detailed in great length, in her affidavits, a sexual relationship that began at Kenwood Academy: He would go back in the early years of his success and go to Lina McLin’s gospel choir class. She’s a legend in Chicago, gospel royalty. He would go to her sophomore class and hook up with girls afterward and have sex with them. Sometimes buy them a pair of sneakers. Sometimes just letting them hang out in his presence in the recording studio. She detailed the sexual relationship that she was scarred by. It lasted about one and a half to two years, and then he dumped her and she slit her wrists, tried to kill herself. Other girls were involved. She recruited other girls. He picked up other girls and made them all have sex together. A level of specificity that was pretty disgusting.

A particular point that DeRogatis makes about why R. Kelly was able to essentially get away with all this strikes home.

 The saddest fact I’ve learned is: Nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody. They have any complaint about the way they are treated: they are “bitches, hos, and gold diggers,” plain and simple. Kelly never misbehaved with a single white girl who sued him or that we know of. 

Think about that the next time you play an R. Kelly song. Are you able to separate the allegations that continue to haunt R. Kelly from your enjoyment of his music? Let us know where you stand in the comments.

Read the full and eye-opening story over at the Village Voice.

Photo: Chicago Sun-Times