Following the broadcast earlier this month of the Surviving R. Kelly documentary on Lifetime, one which detailed years of accusations that the singer has abused underage girls, Sony Music has dropped Kelly, Variety reported Friday.
While Billboard reported Friday that Kelly and the label had “mutually agreed to part ways,” the Variety story characterized the move as the label dropping the singer.
A source told Variety that while no official announcement will be made for the time being about Kelly’s departure, his bio has been removed from the RCA Records website. The company, Variety said, “took its time to wade through the issues ‘responsibly’ and avoid legal ramifications” — as Kelly could sue Sony for breach of contract.
Accusations against Kelly have percolated for many years, with a videotape featuring the singer allegedly having sex with underage girls widely circulating in 2002. This led to charges and a protracted legal battle that led to a trial — and Kelly’s acquittal — in 2008. More recently, multiple accusers have come forward, leading to a #MuteRKelly movement, and eventually the documentary that featured several of Kelly’s accusers coming forward on camera. Multiple criminal investigations have been launched concerning the singer’s behavior.
Following the documentary, numerous musicians — including Celine Dion and Lady Gaga, per the Inquisitr — have disavowed their past work with Kelly. They have also pushed to have their collaborative work removed from streaming services.
Being dropped by Sony means that Kelly will no longer have a record label, and also that pressure will likely be brought on any other label that tries to make a deal with him in the future. In addition, the decision sets a precedent that other artists who have been accused of similar things in the past may also find their label deals threatened.
As for Kelly’s back catalog, it remains available through Sony/RCA. The move only means that the company will no longer release any new Kelly music in the future. Most of the singer’s past music remains available for download and on streaming services — and actually saw a spike while the documentary was airing.
After losing his label — and if he’s not able to find a new one — Kelly would have to produce and release his music independently. Doing so might be easier now than in the past, as Kelly still has access to social media and could release music that way in the future. Kelly, whose last album was released in 2016, has said recently that he’s working on new music.