Radio listeners in New York and L.A. will be hard-pressed to find “Ignition” or “Step in the Name of Love” on major stations anytime soon.
Radio stations across both metropolises are no longer playing the R&B star, who faces amplifying backlash over accusations of sexual misconduct following the premiere of Surviving R. Kelly on Lifetime in early January. In Los Angeles, hip-hop and contemporary stations KDay 93.5, Power 106 and 97.1 Amp Radio are no longer playing Kelly’s music, they told The Hollywood Reporter. All are within the top 26 highest-rated stations on Nielsen, according to the latest L.A. ratings. The Beat 98.2, which reaches over 100,000 listeners worldwide according to its website, also has stopped putting Kelly’s songs on rotation.
In New York, all iHeartMedia stations, including Power 105.1, Q104.3, Z100, 106.7 Lite FM and 103.5 KTU have ceased playing the singer’s music. All are among the top 12 highest-rated stations in New York, according to the latest Nielsen ratings; iHeartRadio advertises that it has over 269 million monthly on-air listeners and over 85 million monthly unique visitors on iHeart Radio’s digital networks. Additionally in New York, Radio 103.9, the 34th highest-rated station in the city according to Nielsen, no longer puts Kelly’s songs on its playlists.
The radio conglomerate Salem Radio Network, with 115 radio stations and over 2,700 affiliate stations, stopped playing Kelly’s music months ago. Its national talk shows “often use R&B artists as ‘bumper music’ into-and-out of commercial breaks,” vp news and talk programming Tom Tradup wrote in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. “But we determined six months ago that no R. Kelly music would be featured on any of our programs…owing to the serious and disturbing allegations against him including abuse and statutory rape.”
Tradup added, “As a longtime Chicagoan, booting ‘local’ star R. Kelly off our talk shows saddens me. But as a father and a responsible broadcaster, featuring him on SRN — even in peripheral bumper music drops — might imply endorsement of him even as the allegations highlighted on Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly series are being sorted out.”
These changes at metropolitan radio stations follow a wave of businesses shedding their affiliations with Kelly at the beginning of 2019. After news sites reported that Georgia prosecutors were looking into the claims in the docuseries, Sony dropped the artist, Jennifer Hudson and Lady Gaga removed songs they had collaborated on with Kelly from streaming platforms and Spotify has made it easier for listeners to “mute” the artist on its service.
On the six-part Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, women detail how the singer or his associates allegedly approached them as teenagers at malls, concerts or schools and groomed them for sexual and emotional abuse, including starvation and physical violence. The series renewed the hashtag #MuteRKelly on social platforms. Kelly himself denies accusations of abuse and, in 2008, was acquitted of 14 counts of child pornography in Cook County in Illinois.