Now that RCA has dropped R&B singer R. Kelly, who has faced decades of allegations of sexual misconduct, the activists who have petitioned the labels to drop him are calling it a victory.
In the summer of 2017, around the time that Buzzfeed News reported that the R&B singer was supposedly holding women in his homes and other properties against their will, activists launched the #MuteRKelly campaign, seeking to quarantine him from the music industry at large. Online petitions and in-person protests have followed, all while the label stayed silent. Earlier this month, Lifetime aired its docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, which added to the pressure on RCA to react.
“I feel relieved and vindicated that justice will be soon be served,” Asante McGee, one of the women who has accused Kelly of misconduct and appeared in the docuseries, tells Rolling Stone. “I hope he gets the help he needs. I would like for Rob to let the girls contact and see their parents and let us all know they are safe and they want to be there with him. I want the girls to know we are worried about their safety.”
Last week, the founders of #MuteRKelly called the label’s tacit state “defiant.” Now they’re saying it’s about time, and despite no pending legal actions against Kelly regarding the allegations, they’re not mincing words. “#MuteRKelly is extremely grateful to RCA/Sony for finally doing the right thing and dropping [alleged] child molester, R Kelly, from the label,” the campaign said in a statement. “It’s high time corporations put people over profit and stop supporting artists who have a track record of abusing young women.”
They continued that they’re not done yet. “While we are excited about this news, this is not the end of the road for #MuteRKelly,” the statement reads. “We are still fighting to get his music off radio, to have his songs removed from streaming services and to get his upcoming concerts canceled. We will not stop until the community at large has completely divested itself from R. Kelly, and he can no longer use his wealth to insulate himself from the consequences of his crimes.”
Time’s Up expressed gratitude to the label for its action in a tweet but echoed #MuteRKelly’s stance that it’s own the first step toward its agenda. “Thank you Sony and RCA for your leadership in refusing to profit off the trauma of black girls and women,” it wrote. “Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music [and] Pandora should follow your lead and #MuteRKelly. All allies in the fight against sexual violence must take a stand on this toxic issue.”
The organization Color of Change, which campaigns for social justice in black communities, offered a similar sentiment. “After years of profiting from R. Kelly, despite their knowledge of his [alleged] sexual abuse of black girls, Sony’s RCA is finally acting,” the organization’s managing director of campaigns, Arisha Hatch, said in a statement. “This move comes just two days after Color of Change and our partners brought our protest to the doorsteps of the label’s headquarters. This is a huge victory for the survivors who came forward, both in Surviving R. Kelly and before, and all young black women, who are systematically undervalued in our society. This victory belongs to the survivors of his abuse — their brave testimonies played a critical role in pushing RCA to drop R. Kelly.
“Since 2017, when our campaign to #DropRKelly began, over 80,000 Color of Change members raised their voices to hold R. Kelly and enablers like RCA, accountable,” she continued. “We focused on RCA because for over three decades, the label promoted and profited from music by a man who [allegedly] engaged in decades of sexual, mental and physical abuse of black women and girls.”
She went on to echo #MuteRKelly’s sentiments that even though RCA has cut its ties with the singer, there’s still a long way to go. “Our fight is unfinished: there are still so many institutions in the music industry who continue to enable his [alleged] abuse,” she said. “RCA can and should go one step further and retire R. Kelly’s albums and songs. Streaming services, like Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, Pandora must stop streaming R. Kelly, as they provide R. Kelly an ongoing revenue stream to maintain his [alleged] sex trafficking operation. Artists who have worked with R. Kelly must step up and request their music be pulled as well. They must act now.”
Care2, a network that provides voices to humanitarian causes with petitions and campaigns, also showed its support of RCA’s move to drop the singer. Its site has been hosting a petition, which has gained nearly 111,000 signatures, calling on the label to fire him. “It’s long past time that Sony Music took a stand for black and brown girls and put a check on R. Kelly and his [alleged] horrific abuse of young girls, which went on for decades with impunity,” reads a statement from the organization. “Black women have stood at the forefront of this fight, and for nearly two years, Care2 is proud to have worked with the #MuteRKelly founders, Oronike Odeleye and Kenyette Barnes, and countless others to hold RCA accountable for its continued partnership with Kelly. We applaud the label for taking the right step in the face of public outcry over its ties to him, and implore other corporations and artists to do the same. R. Kelly is a [alleged] serial sexual predator and has no place in the music industry — or in any industry.”