R. Kelly’s latest song “I Admit” is an unknowing admittance of male toxicity at its most carnal. If you were led to believe it was a confessional, think again.
Void of any hint of remorse or responsibility, ‘I Admit’ is a list of excuses for R .Kelly’s behaviour towards women; his gender being one of them: “I’m just a man y’all,” he raps. Kelly even goes as far as to place himself as the true victim. But what about all those underage women he subjected to abuse and the torrent of other accusations? You ask.
Well, according to Kelly’s new single, they were willing to partake in his degrading sexual antics for the fame and the money… Perhaps someone could explain the term victim-blaming to the singer, along with the definitions of consent and paedophilia, words he should probably be more concerned to familiarise himself with than ‘sex cult.’ “What’s the definition of a cult? / What’s the definition of a sex slave? / Go to the dictionary, look it up / Let me know I’ll be here waiting” he lyricises. Well, we’re also waiting, Kelly, for you to be held accountable for your actions.
“I Admit,” admits to little and is ultimately an allocation of blame, blame that is shifted from our assailant Mr Kelly to the parents of the underage girls whom he abused, lawyers, his gender, his fame, his dyslexia, his own experience of abuse, and of course the women themselves, or “bitches” as he refers to them. What Kelly fails to mention and realise, in his lyrical blame spreading (aside from his own accountability) is that society – which allowed him to commit abuse and not face any serious repercussions for decades – is also to blame. The women’s movement that wants to “bring down the R,” as he says, is, in fact, trying to tear down the rape culture he represents and promotes.
The issue goes further than R Kelly’s personal ill-doing, to the ills of society in general. Our society has formerly enabled this sexual predator, among others (Cosby, Weinstein, Trump to name a few) to thrive. Kelly’s deeply entrenched male privilege, and the subsequent power it wields, has given him a sense of entitlement to women’s bodies; “fucked a bitch just because,” as the song so eloquently claims.
The most concerning aspect of the song is that Kelly’s denial of being a ‘beast’or a ‘monster’ is in fact accurate in a world where his actions, not dissimilar to many other men in power, have been normalised. Kelly is not considered as much of a “freak” (as he calls himself) as he should be; by the law, the music industry and the general (record buying) public, he’s an accepted part of our (rape) culture. Indeed isn’t the president of the United States of America the ultimate emblem for this particular breed of toxic masculinity? Trump, a man accused of sexual assault and harassment by at least 24 women and caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the pussy no less, was nonetheless elected. In a rather hauntingly similar justification for his actions, Kelly raps: “I admit that’s just some shit that come with being a celebrity/I ain’t chasing these ladies/These ladies chasing me”
Women let men assault them, they’re asking for it, they want the fame. That’s the message these men are feeding society, a society in which it takes innumerable amounts of evidence for victims of sexual assault to be believed and for powerful men to be held accountable – one of Weinstein’s accusers who had a recording of her assault and still wasn’t believed being a case in point. The incredibly high bar for evidence (we’re talking DNA proof) quickly turns serious accusations into “opinions.” Surely a supposed lack of evidence doesn’t just turn a fact into an opinion as Kelly seems to think, rapping in ‘I Admit’ Verse 5:
How can consent and even paedophilia be a matter of opinion? The man illegally married a child. It’s these “blurred lines”, for want of a better phrase, that allows these predatory men to walk free.
Due to society’s entrenched bias against black women, Kelly’s victims – some allegedly less than 14 years old and almost all of them black – have been silenced by Kelly’s legal teams with minimal public backlash. Jim DeRogatis, who has reported R. Kelly’s alleged sexual misdeeds for nearly two decades, commented that the “saddest fact” he’s learned is “nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.” Oronike Odeleye; who launched #MuteRKelly shares this belief, telling The Associated Press in an interview that Kelly would “be in jail right now if we were talking about white girls.”
In 2018 and the era of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter the fact that black women still have to battle so hard to be heard is abominable. According to Kelly’s lawyers the efforts by the Time’s Up Women of Colour branch, to get Kelly’s record label RCA to drop him, is a “public lynching of a black man who has made extraordinary contributions to our culture.”
His contribution to rape culture perhaps should be considered “extraordinary” but his input to wider society deplored. Kelly’s art should be noted, go down in history in fact, for enabling him the power and protection to abuse and exploit women. In the case of R Kelly there is no distinction between the art and artist, he sings explicitly about abusing girls and the money and power he accumulates as a result of his “art” protects him from any repercussions. Rather than listening to R Kelly’s song/life story (it’s a long 19 minutes), the public should be hearing his victims’ stories.
Kelly is yet to be convicted, only a few members of his inner circle have resigned and only some of his performances canceled, his record label RCA has not dropped him and instead, R.Kelly continues to perform at venues with ticket sales and streaming numbers remaining stable. My fingers are crossed that #MuteRKelly continues to trend until it’s replaced with #RKellyarrested. Now that the social climate has become vastly less tolerant of predatory men, seen in the arrest of Bill Cosby (four decades and 60 female accounts later), here’s hoping R.Kelly will get his comeuppance… before he reaches his seventies.
What are your thoughts on ‘I Admit?’ Let us know in the comments below!