R&B singer R. Kelly and Sony have parted ways, according to a person familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to a confidentiality agreement.
Details of the separation, first reported by Billboard, are scant. According to Variety, the label has no plans for an external announcement.
Kelly’s artist page has been removed from RCA’s website and now contains an “Error 404” message. According to Variety’s source, the singer’s back catalogue remains with RCA. Representatives for the label declined to comment.
The move comes after increased scrutiny on Kelly’s behavior and claims of sexual misconduct against the artist, laid out in a multipart Lifetime docuseries that premiered in early January. In the aftermath of “Surviving R. Kelly,” which dominated conversation on social media for days, prosecutors in Chicago made a public plea for victims or witnesses to come forward so authorities could start an investigation.
Kelly, who could not be reached for comment Friday through his attorneys, has long denied the allegations, but the renewed attention has put increased pressure on the musician’s label and past collaborators to denounce him. Lady Gaga and the band Phoenix are among those who apologized for having previously worked with the singer.
Kelly signed onto Jive Records in the 1990s. RCA, which is now under the Sony umbrella, absorbed Jive artists in 2011. A protest led by social justice organizations UltraViolet and Color of Change took place Wednesday outside Sony’s New York headquarters, with demonstrators holding signs with messages such as “RCA Drop Kelly!” and “Black Girls Matter.”
“This is a huge victory for the survivors who came forward, both in ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ and before, and all young Black women, who are systematically undervalued in our society,” Arisha Hatch, a managing director at Color of Change, said in a statement Friday. “This victory belongs to the survivors of his abuse – their brave testimonies played a critical role in pushing RCA to drop R. Kelly.”
Kelly, who at 27 married his 15-year-old protege, Aaliyah, has faced years of sexual misconduct allegations, including claims that he had relations with underage girls. He was tried on child pornography charges in 2008, six years after Jim DeRogatis, at the time a music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, was mailed a sex tape he turned over to authorities. More than a dozen witnesses identified the person in the video as an underage girl, but neither she nor her parents testified. Kelly was acquitted on all counts.
In 2017, DeRogatis reported on parents’ claims that the singer had brainwashed their daughters and was keeping them in an abusive “cult,” allegations which once again brought public attention to the singer’s behavior. (One of the women, in a remote interview with TMZ, said she was with Kelly willingly.) The #MuteRKelly movement, a grass roots campaign calling for boycotts of Kelly’s music, kicked off that same year.
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