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Sony and R. Kelly have agreed to part ways, sources tell Billboard. The news comes on the heels of the Lifetime documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which details allegations against the singer of domestic abuse and having sex with minors.
Kelly had been signed to Jive since the beginning of his career in the early 1990s, and when Jive became part of Sony BMG, he became part of the Sony umbrella. He has been under contract at RCA, a Sony subsidiary, since 2012. Kelly has also now been removed from the RCA website.
Over the years, the R&B singer has been no stranger to facing accusations, as he was first arrested in 2002 for his alleged involvement in a child pornography tape. Lifetime’s six-part docuseries narrates stories and allegations from a number of women, including his ex-wife Andrea Lee, former underage partner Lizzette Martinez and former backup singer Jovante Cunningham. The three-night, six-hour series averaged 2.1 million viewers, far bigger than the cable channel’s usual viewership.
Apart from Surviving R. Kelly becoming a success for Lifetime, the series has also jumpstarted a myriad of downfalls for the singer. Amid the docuseries, the #MuteRKelly campaign has risen, which demands the music industry, including his record label RCA Records, to stop supporting the singer. Famous musicians have also spoken out against the singer, with Lady Gaga, Chance the Rapper and Celine Dion pulling their collaborations with Kelly from streaming services.
Kelly’s music had also reportedly been banned from two Dallas-area radio stations, while some community organizers had begun to call on iHeartRadio and Radio One to ban his music from their playlists.
The R&B singer is reportedly facing eviction from his Chicago recording studio over unpaid bills. A woman who spoke out against Kelly in the documentary, Faith Rodgers, also accused the singer of threats and retaliation over her lawsuit. A man believed to be Kelly’s former manager turned himself in on Friday after being accused of threatening the family of Joycelyn Savage, one of the women who is allegedly being held against her will by the singer.
News of the singer’s label dropping him Friday arrived amid another allegation made against the R&B singer by a woman who said she interned at Epic Records in 1999. In an interview with NBC’s Dateline — set to air Friday night — the woman claims that the singer sexually abused her when she was a teenager.
The now-36-year-old alleged that Kelly forcibly kissed her before coaxing her into a sexual relationship. She said Kelly asked, “Can I kiss you?,” to which she responded, “No.” She recounted the singer as responding by asking, “‘Well, give me a hug.’ And then, like, when I gave him a hug he just started kissing me.” Sampson also said that she later felt as though she “was in love with him.”
Amid the Lifetime series, Kelly’s attorney has dismissed the claims, describing them as “another round of stories” made against Kelly.
Prosecutors in New York, Chicago and Atlanta are also seeking information about Kelly in light of the accusations made in Surviving R. Kelly.
Reps for Sony and Kelly could not be immediately reached for comment.
Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, issued the following statement after news broke that Sony’s RCA would part ways with R. Kelly: “After years of profiting from R. Kelly, despite their knowledge of his sexual abuse of black girls, Sony’s RCA is finally acting. This move comes just two days after Color of Change and our partners brought our protest to the doorsteps of the label’s headquarters,” said Arisha Hatch, Color of Change’s managing director of campaigns. “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.”
Continued Hatch, “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. We focused on RCA because for over three decades, the label promoted and profited from music by a man who engaged in decades of sexual, mental and physical abuse of black women and girls.
“Our fight is unfinished: there are still so many institutions in the music industry who continue to enable his abuse. RCA can and should go one step further and retire R. Kelly’s albums and songs,” the statement concluded. “Streaming services, like Spotify, iTunes, Tidal, Pandora must stop streaming R. Kelly, as they provide R. Kelly an ongoing revenue stream to maintain his 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.”
Jan. 18, 11:53 a.m. Updated with Color of Change’s statement.
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