One Week After 'Surviving R. Kelly,' the Change Is Just Beginning

In the week following Lifetime's 'Surviving R. Kelly,' the news cycle surrounding the Chicago singer has been unrelenting.
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R. Kelly
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It's been a week since Surviving R. Kelly, a six-hour docuseries, premiered on Lifetime detailing 25 years of sexual assault accusations made against the Chicago singer. The docuseries, executive produced by dream hampton, is a chilling account of the ways in which these allegations (made mostly by black women who claim they had sex with R. Kelly when they were underage) were largely ignored. Since the premiere, the conversation has shifted largely to the ways in which the music industry can create a system that enables sexual misconduct. In the past week, the scrutiny following the accusations presented in Surviving R. Kelly has created a news cycle that is both exhausting and inescapable.


Following the 1.9 million views on Surviving R. Kelly's first night, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) received a 20 percent increase in callers, according to NBC News. But, sexual assault hotlines weren't the only avenues receiving increases. Kelly's music saw a boost, too, according to Billboard, which reported his music saw a 116 percent increase following the final night of Surviving R. Kelly. According to Neilsen Music, his most streamed songs were "Ignition (Remix)," "Trapped in the Closet," "Bump N' Grind," "Same Girl," and "I Believe I Can Fly." It's hard to understand why people would reach for his hits after confronting this news, but clearly, that's what was happening on some level.

On January 8, State Attorney Kim Foxx held a press conference to urge victims in the Chicago area to come forward, pledging to use any credible new information to launch a formal investigation against the singer. Two days later, the city of Chicago received an anonymous phone call claiming people were living in Kelly's recording studio prompting an investigation at the singer's property. News also broke that the December 5 gun threat, which stopped the original screening of the docuseries, was called in by a man in Chicago named Don Russell, who has been identified as Kelly's manager.

When John Legend publicly condemned R. Kelly on the docuseries—and again on his personal Twitter account —the world praised him for using his celebrity to denounce Kelly and asked the same of former collaborators. In the aftermath of the doc, both Lady Gaga and Phoenix apologized for their "poor judgment" for collaborating with the singer previously.


Today Buku Abi (formerly Joann Kelly), Kelly's daughter, released a statement on her Instagram about her thoughts following the docuseries:

Reminders of how terrible my father is, and how we should be speaking up against him, rude comments about my family, fabricating me, my siblings, & our mother’s ‘part,’ etc., does not help my family (me, my sister, my brother, and my mother) in our healing process. Nor does it allow a safe space for other victims who are scared to speak up.

The same monster you all confronting me about is my father. I am well aware of who and what he is. I grew up in that house. My choice to not speak on him and what he does is for my peace of mind. My emotional state. And for MY healing. I have to do & move in a manner that is best for me.

The media frenzy surrounding Surviving R. Kelly merits the question: why now? Many of the allegations claimed in the docuseries have been public knowledge for over two decades, but if the attention (and sudden popularity in his music) says anything, it's a signifier that 2019 might be a long year ahead.

Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.