I was born in 1990, so the first time I heard of R. Kelly, I was very young. It was his uplifting Space Jam anthem “I Believe I Can Fly.” I remember later discovering he had disgustingly married Aaliyah, one of my childhood idols, and I remember the vague allegations of pedophilia against him, and I, of course, remember the peeing incident.
What I don’t remember about R. Kelly are the specifics of absolutely anything related to his predatory behavior, his blatant and grotesque sexual abuse of young women in his hometown of Chicago. Until now. Recently, the excellent Chicago-based music journalist Jessica Hopper paired up with the equally excellent Chicago music critic and reporter Jim DeRogatis to discuss at-length the 15 years of work he spent exposing R. Kelly for his paper the Chicago Sun-Times. That Q&A was published yesterday in the Village Voice and it’s one of the most important pieces of music journalism of 2013.
But beyond being a piece that completely dismantles your understanding of R. Kelly’s “monster,” it’s a unique and free lesson for young journalists that teaches the fundamentals of our profession and how this profession let down dozens of young girls in failing to correctly report on R. Kelly and is continuing the tradition to this day. I want to point out a particular passage from the Q&A: