CHARLOTTE, N.C. — R. Kelly insisted on performing in North Carolina Friday night, rejecting efforts to silence him over longstanding allegations of sexual misconduct.
The Greensboro concert was among the R&B singer’s first performances since the #MuteRKelly movement accelerated boycott efforts in recent weeks, with help from the Time’s Up campaign against sexual harassment and assault.
Kelly also was recently dropped from a May 5 concert in Chicago, and the music streaming service Spotify removed him from playlists curated by the platform.
Protesters gathered outside the Greensboro Coliseum ahead of his performance and criticized arena officials for declining to meet with them.
“It’s also about money for them. Money seems be more important than people who have experienced sexual violence,” said Omisade Burney-Scott, with the Sistersong, a reproductive rights group.
“It’s important for the black community to stand up and hold him accountable for his actions,” she added. “We do not want to support him economically, to put money in his pocket, to allow him to continue to insulate himself from being held accountable.”
A coalition of women’s groups connected to #MuteRKelly released a signed letter this week citing what it calls Kelly’s “long term history of sexual misconduct.”
“The coliseum has neglected to consider the Black women and girls that largely make up the community that relies on them for engagement and entertainment,” the letter said.
R. Kelly is one of pop music’s best-selling artists, with hits including “Ignition,” ”I Believe I Can Fly,” ”Step in the Name of Love,” ”Same Girl” and “Bump N’ Grind.” He’s also written hits for Celene Dion, Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga.
He’s written classic love songs and even gospel music, but he’s defined by sexually explicit songs such as “Feelin’ on Yo Booty,” ”Your Body’s Calling Me,” and “Sex Me.”
Kelly denies abusing anyone and faces no current criminal charges.
He was acquitted in 2008 of child pornography after a video circulated appearing to show him having sex with a teenage girl. But as he continued to score hits and sell out stadiums, more women have come forward in recent years accusing him of sexual misconduct.
The R&B superstar said through social media that he would “try and get to the bottom line of it,” and that he was looking forward to Friday’s concert.
A coliseum official declined comment on the letter.
“This has struck a nerve in the community,” said Brandi Collins-Calhoun, director of reproductive and maternal health for the YMCA of Greensboro, one of the groups that signed the letter.
Kelly had been scheduled to be among the performers at a May 5 concert in Chicago, but was dropped as protests arose. He issued a statement on YouTube saying he didn’t know why his performance was canceled.
The organizers of #MuteRKelly say they’ve been trying to get the singer off the airwaves and concert stages since last year. The campaign picked up attention with support from filmmakers in the Time’s Up campaign.
Spotify, citing its new policy against hateful content and conduct, announced Thursday it was removing Kelly’s music from its curated playlists. A Spotify representative said Kelly’s music is no longer available on the streaming service’s owned and operated playlists and algorithmic recommendations. His music can still be found by those who search for it, but Spotify will not promote it.
Kelly’s management protested the move in a statement to The Associated Press.
“R. Kelly never has been accused of hate, and the lyrics he writes express love and desire,” the statement read. “Mr. Kelly for 30 years has sung songs about his love and passion for women. He is innocent of the false and hurtful accusations in the ongoing smear campaign against him, waged by enemies seeking a payoff. He never has been convicted of a crime, nor does he have any pending criminal charges against him.”