Here’s something I read yesterday at The Paper Machete in Chicago. Apologies if it’s not funny or insightful. A lot of the bold/italics were just for me to know what to stress while I read to an audience. Also, if you notice any grammatical issues be sure to write them in the comments and I assure you I’ll never read it.
Enjoy! or don’t…
Hey, art is weird. And some artists get to hide behind their work to avoid being recognized as the horrible people they are. Not the creators of bad art, because fuck them. The good art, though, is where things get tricky.
Think about it. Here are some bad artists who were also bad people:
- Charles Manson
- Adolf Hitler
- Walt Disney
Our opinions are pretty clear, right? We know how history will write about them. I mean, Disney was smart enough to pay historians off so most people will probably never know how much of a dirtbag he was, but you get the point.
Now compare that to this list of “great” artists and celebrities who are, were or are allegedly very bad people:
- Bill Cosby
- Woody Allen
- Michael Jackson
- Kobe Bryant
- John Lennon
- Richard Pryor
- Jimi Hendrix
It isn’t so clear cut. By the way, it was way easier to find the people on this list than the list with Hitler in it. The cultural opinions of the first four dudes; Cosby, Allen, Jackson and Bryant haven’t settled in any truly meaningful way. But if the cultural opinions of Lennon, Hendrix, and Pryor indicate anything, it’s that perhaps the art is what will ultimately define their legacy. Or maybe that’s just because they existed and died at a different time. It seems like our generation is more willing to challenge what we accept from celebrities and who we accept as our icons. It.. seems that way.
So thinking ahead..how will certain artists be remembered? How will their art be remembered? And what if, that artist is R. Kelly? How will history tell future generations about this abusive and psychotic man who somehow makes music my grandma loves to dance to? Even I want to dance to it and I hate dancing. It makes you think… maybe Charles Manson’s trial would have gone a little differently if he managed to produce a few party anthems before all those murders.
Kelly recently stormed out of an interview on Huffington Post Live when reporter Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani asked a few viewer questions that centered around his numerous rape and child pornography allegations and how that maybe puts fans in a weird spot.
It’s obvious R. Kelly thinks that just 7 years after his acquittal, we’d rather hear about his new album titled “The Buffet” than hear him discuss the issue that matters most. Also, dude, your new album is called “The Buffet.” No one wants to hear about that. The fact that you went from The Chocolate Factory to The Buffet says everything about the direction your career is headed. No wonder your albums aren’t selling. You’re giving them titles an old man from Florida would name them. What’s your next album gonna be called.. “The Prune Isle At The Grocery Store?”
If you go to his website right now, there is an image of what one can only assume is THE buffet suggested in the new album’s title. The image has R. Kelly as the only man at the head of a table surrounded by identical women in red dresses. There are more women than there is food in the picture, suggesting that this is either a really shitty buffet or that the women are R. Kelly’s main course.
His record sales are down, but Kells is still selling out concerts and still producing new music. He’s even featured in a new Chance The Rapper track called “Somewhere in Paradise.” Maybe because R. Kelly is hoping there is a seat open for him somewhere at a buffet table in heaven.
It’s not necessarily out of place for Kelly to keep touring. People are still buying tickets and he’s only doing what every artist attempts to do in the situation, which is keep producing. Think about how many shows Bill Cosby did as the rape allegations mounted up, hoping he could turn the tide over by ignoring it. Think about how Woody Allen still produces a movie a year. Imagine Kobe Bryant’s legacy if he retired 10 years ago. Even consider how sexist racist Donald Trump manipulates the 24 hour news cycle each day. We’ve forgotten the crazy sexualized thing he said last week about his daughter because of the crazy racist thing he’s saying about the entirety of Mexico today. Even crazier, we’ll have forgotten he ever ran by 2020. The point is, people forget. When they want to.
As R. Kelly eerily put it during the Huffington Post interview: quote: “I will continue to do my job until I get fired, and the only people who can fire me are my fans.”
That’s a scary thought because his fan base includes my grandma, and probably your grandma too. Who doesn’t want to step in the name of love? And that same fan base also includes every human who had a prom night in the 90’s. Who else doesn’t see nothin’ wrong with a little bump and grind? R.Kelly is just playing his hand in the game and we are at the other end of the poker table.
Quick Reminder: This man ruined the lives of young girls, now grown women, in this very city.
There are a few ways R. Kelly could possibly be remembered. In one scenario, future generations will only know of him through his music as the artist behind such hits as “Ignition” and “I Believe I Can Fly.” This is how that would sound in History books… say a thousand years from now:
Robert Sylvester Kelly also known as R. Kelly, the Chicago musician poet and playwright, who reinvented flight during the great space jam of 1996. He is known for inspiring the masses with the phrases “toot toot” and “beep beep.” He also penned the thrilling three hundred part play “Trapped In The Closet” now performed year round on broadway.
Hey, a thousand years from now a lot of things will get lost in the shuffle. If we let it.
And that leaves us with how he should be remembered, which is the way anyone should be remembered, based on how they lived. And while we remember that, we should also jot down how we reacted to them well.