After months of controversy, R. Kelly took to the media this week to defend himself against allegations that he had sex with several underage girls, claiming, “People are trying to bring me down.”
Stating that on the advice of his attorney he was speaking “with one hand behind my back,” Kelly sat down with MTV News’ John Norris on Thursday morning (May 9) in Atlanta, part of a small string of interviews that also saw him speak with BET. The singer said that he decided to speak out “for my fans, for me, for my life and for my family.”
He used the opportunity to paint a picture of himself as a man who is far from perfect, yet still incapable of committing the alleged acts.
“I’m no angel, but I’m no monster either,” Kelly said.
“There are things I’m trying to change,” he added, noting that he is seeking the assistance of Rev. James Meeks of the Salem Baptist Church of Chicago for “personal matters.”
The interviews are Kelly’s first major media appearances since a videotape emerged three months ago that allegedly catches the R&B star having sex with an underage girl.
Kelly reiterated his previous claims that the tape is a hoax, though he said that he hasn’t viewed it himself. “Why would I want to see something that disgusting and crazy?” the singer asked rhetorically.
However, Chicago police have seen the tape, and continue to investigate its origin. Kelly said that he has yet to be questioned by authorities, but that he plans to cooperate fully. He said that he’s not concerned about answering potentially embarrassing questions from police because “this is already embarrassing to me.”
A former protÃ©gÃ© of Kelly’s, singer Sparkle, has stepped forward to ID the girl in the video as her niece and claims that the girl was 14 at the time the tape was made. Kelly insisted that the charges are false and that they are the product of a “big beef” between himself and Sparkle that stems from a soured business relationship. He did say that he has met the singer’s niece, but that he is “like a godfather to her.”
Rumors of the singer’s involvement with young girls dates back to his marriage to then-15-year-old Aaliyah (despite initial denials of the marriage, a marriage certificate and proof of an annulment were eventually unearthed). Kelly has settled two suits filed by women who accused the singer of having relations with them while they were underage, and has vowed to fight a third such suit filed last week. In that most recent suit, a woman claims that Kelly had sex with her when she was underage, and also forced her to have an abortion.
The allegations have caused a Kelly backlash in some circles, with radio stations dropping the singer from their playlists, and organized anti-Kelly rallies being staged in his hometown of Chicago.
“That really hurt me,” a visibly shaken Kelly said of the protests. “They don’t even know me.”
The backlash appears to be slowing his career as well, as his once highly-anticipated album with Jay-Z, The Best of Both Worlds, has met less than blockbuster sales. However, the singer chalks the sluggish sales up to bootlegging prior to the album’s release. He also noted that Jay-Z and his record label continue to be supportive of the singer, but ultimately, he must face his battles alone.
“It’s not their job to rescue me,” Kelly said.