Allegations of pedophilia and sexual abuse have been leveled against R&B singer R. Kelly for decades, and it seems that the world is finally starting to listen. Over the past several months, awareness of Kelly’s purported sex crimes has increased thanks to efforts like the #MuteRKelly movement and the recent Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. And today, January 18th, Billboard reports that Sony Music has officially ended its business relationship with Kelly.
According to the magazine, the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer was removed from the RCA Records website at about 10 a.m. PT. It was a quiet move with huge significance. However, Billboard also notes that Kelly’s previously released music will remain available through Sony/RCA, as well as on many streaming services. He has been signed with RCA, a part of Sony, since 2012. The New York Times reports that at this point, it’s unclear if RCA paid Kelly to end his contract or what other terms of the deal were. An unnamed source told The Times that the singer’s legal team and RCA had been working on an exit deal for months—even before Surviving R. Kelly premiered.
On Twitter, many celebrated.
But, as others pointed out, the decision was long overdue.
After Surviving R. Kelly aired on January 3rd, 4th, and 5th, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Georgia opened a criminal investigation into the singer’s alleged abuse (and The Times reported that an investigation was opened in Chicago, too). CNN reported that Kelly’s former manager, Henry James Mason, turned himself in to the police for threatening the father of one of Kelly’s reported victims. And according to The Guardian, protesters demonstrated online and outside of Sony’s New York headquarters on January 16th.
Kelly losing his contract with Sony won’t take away the pain his victims have experienced, or undo how long they’ve suffered in silence. But this is at least a step in the right direction.