R. Kelly has shared a new song that seems to acknowledge some guilt in a slew of scandals that have followed the R&B musician throughout his career.
“I admit I have made some mistakes,” he says in the opening lines of “I Admit,” posted just before midnight Sunday night. “And I have some imperfect ways.”
Former Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine, who oversaw an unsuccessful attempt to prosecute Kelly for allegedly filming a sex tape with an underage girl, read the lyrics to the 19-minute song on Monday. “Obviously it covers a lot of territory and goes back and forth … but there seems to be an implication that if a young lady throws herself at you, that’s on her,” he told the Sun-Times. “And that may be true, but not if they’re underage.”
“If someone is underage it’s against the law to have sexual relations with them,” he said.
“I certainly don’t think it was a specific admission, but I also don’t think it’s inconsistent with the allegations the prosecution made in that case,” Devine said.
Even if Kelly did specifically admit to appearing in the sex tape, it wouldn’t blow back at him criminally.
“Because of double jeopardy, it wouldn’t matter,” said Devine, referring to a clause in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits trying someone twice for the same offense.
“But the public discussion goes on,” he said.
Observers of Kelly’s career could attribute the lyrics to a number of scandals, including the allegations of sexual misconduct that stretch back to the mid-1990s. In 2002, the Sun-Times ran an investigation on accusations against the singer by legal affairs reporter Abdon Pallasch and music critic Jim DeRogatis, who had received a tape from an anonymous contributor that allegedly showed Kelly with a 15-year-old girl.
Kelly was subsequently charged with 21 counts of child pornography in Cook County. He claimed the 26 minutes on the tape had been faked. He was later acquitted by a jury.
As Kelly’s troubles unfolded in Chicago, police in Miami nabbed him on a visit to their city and piled on 12 more counts of child pornography after a search of Kelly’s Florida home turned up photos of the singer with a nude, underage girl. Those charges didn’t stick either.
Before the sex tape made headlines, DeRogatis and Pallasch published a story on how Kelly had paid $250,000 to a young woman who said she had sex with the star when she was just 15.
The piece also detailed how Kelly had routinely “cruised” his former high school, Kenwood Academy, and lured girls with promises to help them become stars. Kelly had dispatched assistants to press slips of paper with his phone number into the hands of young women at his shows.
The BBC broadcast a scathing documentary on Kelly, with similar allegations, earlier this year. “I Admit” says it’s “absurd” to claim Kelly is “abusing these women.”
“They’re brainwashed, really?/Kidnapped, really?/Can’t eat, really?/Real talk, that s— sound silly,” he sings.
The song revisits those allegations in its seventh verse:
What’s the definition of a cult?
Whats the definition of a sex slave?
Go to the dictionary, look it up
Let me know I’ll be here waiting
Now I admit that I got some girls that love me to pull they hair
Now I admit that they love me to talk dirty when I pull they hair
Some like me to spank ’em
Some like to get branded
And what some of these girls want, is too much for the radio station
In “I Admit,” Kelly singles out DeRogatis by name, accusing the journalist of “tryna destroy me for 25 whole years/Writin’ the same stories over and over again.
“Off my name,” Kelly sings of DeRogatis, “you done went and made yourself a career.”
On Monday, DeRogatis told the Sun-Times that Kelly has a history if crafting songs designed to elicit sympathy from listeners.
“He’s been very sophisticated in playing on people’s sympathies,” DeRogatis said. “In this song he says he can’t read. He was abused as a child. But the record stands that since the mid-’90s many young woman have sued him and he’s paid them and forced them to sign non-disclosure agreements for sexual relationships that have left them devastated.”
Kelly now faces more legal trouble in Texas, where a complaint filed with Dallas police accuses him of sexual assault and giving drugs and alcohol to an underage girl, as well as infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease.
The South Side native has faced additional scrutiny and pushback in the wake of the #MeToo movement. A campaign founded by two Atlanta activists titled “#MuteRKelly” earlier this year pushed for the singer’s concerts to be canceled. The University of Illinois at Chicago acquiesced, pulling the plug on his scheduled May 5 show in late April. Meanwhile, radio DJs have refused to play his music, and his publicist, lawyer and executive assistant severed ties with him.