Jay-Z has filed a countersuit against R. Kelly in Manhattan Supreme Court, heightening tensions between the former Best of Both Worlds tourmates. In his suit, the rapper claims that Kelly transformed the tour into "a nightmarish odyssey," with the singer often arriving hours late and leaving early and in tears, and canceling three shows with less than a day's notice.
Jay-Z also calls Kelly's lawsuit against him, filed in November, a "calculated stunt" in order to "deflect attention from his upcoming felony trial involving an alleged sexual liaison with a fourteen-year-old child." Kelly is currently awaiting trial in Chicago for fourteen counts of child pornography based on a videotape uncovered in 2002 allegedly showing the singer having sex with an underage girl.
Kelly sued Jay-Z and his Marcy Projects production company for $15 million in compensatory damages and $60 million in punitive damages shortly after he was booted from the tour in early November. In his suit, Kelly alleges that the rapper "failed to perform their obligations" and "engaged in conduct intentionally designed to exclude [him] from the tour, including threats and acts of violence."
The "violence" referred to occurred during an October 29th performance at New York's Madison Square Garden, after Kelly abruptly left the stage, claiming he'd seen two people in the audience carrying guns. Once a search turned up no weapons, the singer began heading back onstage when a member of Jay-Z's entourage allegedly hit him in the face with pepper spray. Kelly was treated for his injuries and released, while Jay-Z completed his set that night. (Jay-Z associate Tyran "Ty Ty" Smith was later charged with third-degree assault and faces up to a year in jail if convicted.) Jay-Z then promptly kicked Kelly off the tour, performing those dates on his own, with special guests such as P. Diddy, Mariah Carey and Snoop Dogg. The rapper cited Kelly's "lack of professionalism and unpredictable behavior" as the reason for his exclusion.
Ironically, the implosion of the tour did not stop the unhappy couple's second collaborative album, Unfinished Business, from topping the nation's album chart, selling 215,000 copies in its first week.
Meanwhile, more significantly, Kelly faces up to fifteen years in prison if convicted in his pending child pornography trial, for which another pre-trial hearing is scheduled for February 18th. Investigators have stated that, depending on when the tape was filmed, the girl in question may have been anywhere between thirteen and seventeen years of age at the time.
Last March, a case of child pornography against Kelly in Florida, involving photos of the singer allegedly having sex with an underage girl, was dismissed when a judge ruled that the images had been illegally seized and were therefore inadmissible as evidence.